Mercy Wambua, the CEO of the Law Society of Kenya, protesting outside the Supreme Court, after the government deported an opposition politician in defiance of a court order, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

In a historic ruling earlier this month, Malawi’s Constitutional Court overturned President Peter Mutharika’s victory in the country’s presidential election last May. The court criticized the Malawi Electoral Commission for failing to organize a credible vote; in some cases, ballots had reportedly been altered with correction fluid. The presiding judges also ruled that the country’s first-past-the post electoral system—which had allowed Mutharika to secure a second term with a plurality of only 38.5 percent of the vote—was unconstitutional, and ordered new elections to be held within 150 days. The following week, the court rejected an appeal by Mutharika and the […]

An election official works during an exercise to simulate different scenarios for the 2020 elections, in Springfield, Va., Dec. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

If recent history is any guide, the United States is less than a year away from a paralyzing national security crisis. Whether President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger wins in November, revelations that Russia is once again interfering in the 2020 presidential election all but guarantee that the legitimacy of the electoral results will be called into question, potentially undermining the country’s very political stability. One way to guard against that looming threat is for media outlets, which frame how most Americans understand foreign meddling, to make a major course correction in how they cover and respond to Russia’s […]

President Donald Trump, with members of his coronavirus task force, speaks during a news conference at the White House, Washington, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about global efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. They also discuss the ways in which governments’ responses—whether in China, Iran or the U.S.—have highlighted the tensions between political narratives and medical expertise in addressing the crisis. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every day of the week, plus three more […]

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, left, swears in opposition leader Riek Machar as his first deputy, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Charles Atiki Lomodong).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. South Sudan finally has a transitional government, though the country’s citizens and neighboring leaders are watching anxiously to see if this coalition will hold together longer than a previous attempt, which collapsed after only three months. President Salva Kiir swore in opposition leader Riek Machar as his first deputy last weekend, just ahead of a twice-delayed deadline to form a unity government. Kiir also installed three additional vice presidents—two from the government and one from the opposition; a fifth, drawn from another […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the BRICS Business Council prior to the BRICS Summit in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

South Africa assumed the annually rotating chair of the African Union earlier this month, its second term since serving as the organization’s inaugural chair following its founding in 2002. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa took over the role from his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, on Feb. 8 at the AU’s annual summit in Addis Ababa. The position adds to South Africa’s already deep engagement in multilateral organizations. It is currently in the middle of its third two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of both the G-20 and the BRICS […]

People wear masks to help guard against the Coronavirus in downtown Tehran, Iran, Feb. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iran has suddenly emerged as the principal focus of global infection for coronavirus outside of China. Just in the past few days, it has reported more deaths, 26, than any country after China, where 2,744 people have died from the highly infectious disease. More worryingly, Iran has only reported 245 cases of coronavirus as of Feb. 27—far fewer than Japan or South Korea, and even Italy—but those official numbers defy belief. They would put the mortality rate in Iran at more than 10 percent, significantly higher than the rest of the world. In the central Chinese province of Hubei, for […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Compact with Africa summit in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 19, 2019 (Photo by John MacDougall for AFP via AP Images).

In a country where political opponents and outspoken critics of President Paul Kagame have a tendency to turn up dead or disappear, the official explanation of the death of a popular Rwandan gospel singer last week was immediately met with skepticism. The singer, Kizito Mihigo, had been arrested at the border earlier this month for allegedly trying to flee the country illegally and join armed rebels in neighboring Burundi. Three days later, he was found dead in his cell; the police say he committed suicide. Some of Mihigo’s songs run counter to the government’s preferred narrative about the Rwandan genocide, […]

Paramilitary policemen wear face masks as they march in formation near Tiananmen Square, Beijing, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

When Xi Jinping convened a teleconference meeting Sunday of 170,000 government and Communist Party officials around China to discuss the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, his message was both grim and resolute. China, he said, was facing “a crisis and a big test” with “the fastest spread” and “the widest scope” of any epidemic that has struck his country since the Communist Party took over in 1949. There had been, the Chinese leader admitted, “obvious shortcomings in the response.” But after saying that officials had to “learn lessons” from their mistakes, Xi nonetheless went on to boast that the emergency response had […]

A person reads a news report about Facebook on their mobile phone, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 20, 2018 (AP photo).

When Singapore’s government enacted a law aimed at cracking down on fake news last fall, activists, academics and free speech advocates warned that it was a pretext by the ruling People’s Action Party to censor voices critical of the government. The Protection of Online Falsehoods and Manipulation law, or POFMA, allows the government to force social media platforms and users to issue corrections or remove any offending posts. Failure to comply can result in steep fines or even a jail sentence Since it was passed, the law has been invoked several times against opposition figures and media outlets critical of […]

Freed Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee stands next to a placard with a picture of Gui Minhai, Hong Kong, June 18, 2016 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. A court in eastern China on Monday sentenced a Chinese-born Swedish bookseller to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing intelligence” to overseas parties. Gui Minhai’s case drew international attention to the lengths that Beijing is willing to go to silence criticism, even from abroad, while souring ties between China and Sweden. Gui was part-owner of Mighty Current Media, a Hong Kong-based publishing house known for its politically sensitive books about top Chinese Communist Party leaders. In 2015, he […]

A man prays inside the Minor Mosque in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Valeriy Melnikov for Sputnik via AP Images).

Last November, a gunfight at a security checkpoint along Tajikistan’s border with Uzbekistan left 15 masked assailants and five Tajik security forces dead—at least according to the government’s official account. The Tajik authorities immediately blamed the Islamic State for the attack, which it said originated from Afghanistan. Some journalists with longtime experience in the region remained cautious and skeptical. But other outlets and news agencies with far bigger readerships uncritically relayed the government’s narrative, while adding wildly exaggerated estimates of the number of Central Asians fighting with the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Only later, after the international media had turned […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In what has been called a “protection racket” and a “blatant shakedown,” President Donald Trump is again pressuring South Korea to increase its contribution to the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country. The mafia-esque terminology employed by commentators seems apt given Trump’s shocking initial demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s share of American basing costs, from around $900 million per year to nearly $5 billion. While U.S. negotiators have reportedly climbed down from that position, the two sides have yet to find common ground after six rounds of negotiations, heightening fears of a lasting standoff that […]

An anti-government demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian national flag during clashes with police in Quito, Ecuador, Oct. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When it comes to repairing the harm done by populist authoritarian leaders, restoring the independence of democratic institutions is often just the start. The next challenge can be to steer polarized societies through the economic belt-tightening that is required after an autocrat’s spending spree. That seems to be the message from Ecuador, where President Lenin Moreno won overwhelming support in a 2018 constitutional referendum that overturned much of the political legacy of his predecessor and one-time mentor, the brash leftist Rafael Correa, and also blocked him from returning to office by putting a two-term limit on the presidency. But Moreno […]

President Donald Trump speaks to former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

After the United States and China signed their “phase one” trade deal in mid-January, it seemed that the European Union might be the next target in President Donald Trump’s trade wars. At the time, the White House was threatening to increase tariffs amid the ongoing dispute over EU subsidies to Airbus and impose new tariffs over France’s proposed tax on digital service providers, while still holding out the possibility of tariffs on more than $40 billion in automobile imports from Europe. Since then, the Trump administration has held its fire in those disputes, and the prospects for a bilateral trade […]

Anti-government demonstrators throw tear gas canisters back at riot police on a road leading to the parliament building during a protest in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

After four months of widespread protests, Lebanon has a new government. Voted in by a slight majority in parliament in late January, it must deal with the gargantuan task of an economic meltdown of historic proportions, and of assuaging countrywide protesters questioning the legitimacy of the entrenched political elite. Lebanon’s economy, and with it perhaps its long-term political fortunes, are at stake. Since October, protesters across Lebanon, disillusioned with the gross political and economic mismanagement of successive governments, have demanded sweeping reforms. They have put the blame squarely on elites who draw their influence from Lebanon’s dysfunctional power-sharing system. This […]

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea, Feb. 24, 2020 (Newsis photo by Lee Jong-chul via AP Images).

The Wuhan coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19, reveals how vulnerable humanity remains to virulent pathogens. A century after the devastating Spanish flu pandemic, public health officials are scrambling to prevent this latest plague—which as of Feb. 24 had infected more than 79,000 people in at least 29 countries, most of them in China—from becoming another pandemic. As they do, it’s worth taking a step back to consider the stubborn staying power of infectious disease. Far from an anomaly, this outbreak is the shape of things to come. Humanity is currently experiencing its fourth great wave of infectious disease. The first […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by Sergey Mamontov for Sputnik via AP Images).

At a recent summit meeting in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian ally, Alexander Lukashenko, did their best to put on a public show of comity. They even enjoyed a friendly game of hockey during a break from meetings. But despite the public proclamations of “brotherly” ties, the relationship between Russia and Belarus is much more nuanced—and much more troubled—than that. Tensions have been especially high in recent months, as Putin pushes for greater integration between the two countries, raising fears that he could try to annex Belarus outright. Lukashenko has staunchly […]

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