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Last week in Geopolitics

This week in geopolitics, Sunak and Starmer debated key issues ahead of the UK's July 4 election. In India, Modi's BJP retained power despite falling short of a majority, influenced by a strong opposition and economic concerns. The Ukraine-Russia conflict escalates, US-China trade talks resume amid South China Sea tensions, and Israel-Palestine peace talks show progress while Saudi-Iran relations improve.

Spaghetti on the Wall: Wins and Misses in First Sunak-Starmer Showdown

Speculation that the UK is heading for a hung parliament has intensified after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour challenger Keir Starmer went head-to-head Tuesday evening in the first televised debate before the July 4 general election. 

The hour-long program featured poignant questions from audience members on Britain’s economic situation, public health services and immigration, but ended up leaving voters with an even bigger question: 

What is worse, ‘a bad government’ or ‘an unknown government’ ?

With the Conservative Party trailing 20%-points behind Labour in most opinion polls, the debate was Starmer’s to lose. Yet, a Sky News survey showed that 51% of viewers thought Sunak performed better compared to 49% for his Labour Party rival Keir Starmer – a shining victory in light of the gloomy election forecasts. 


Sunak: Concise attack lines that voters will easily remember. Particularly the repeated claim that “Labour will raise taxes by 2000 pounds” needs to be better dismantled by Starmer in upcoming debates.

Starmer: Seemed to have the audience on his side as he garnered several laughs at Sunak’s expense. The PM’s attempt at explaining how NHS waiting lists are down “because they were higher before” triggered one of the biggest audience responses of the evening.


Sunak: Is too reliant on the ‘grey vote’. While bolstering pensions is surely well-received by those aged 75 and above, most voters in the UK still have their own teeth. In a country where the average age for first-time home buyers is 33 (35 in London), there are probably better ways to attract young voters than “transformative” military service.

Starmer: Needs to dial down the ‘barrister’. With a 45-second time limit on responses, it doesn’t work to approach an argument as if in a courtroom. For next time; less anecdotes about dad’s tool-maker shop, and more concrete policy proposals. 

Read our full analysis of the debate here


Indian Election: Why Voters Turned their Back on Modi

The Indian election upset last night has put pundits and polls to shame. With all India’s 640 million votes counted–in what is considered the biggest election in history–it is clear that incumbent Narendra Modi will remain Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. 

However, his mandate has weakened substantially. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 240 seats out of 543 in the lower house of India’s parliament – short of the 272 threshold for an outright majority. However, with allied parties, Modi maintained a governing majority of 283 seats.

Why did Modi perform so far below expectations? Here are three key reasons:

  1. Opposition: Unlike the 2019 general election, the cohesion between the 26 parties in the ‘INDIA’ opposition alliance appeared more robust in this year’s election. This stands in stark contrast to the 2019 election when the ideologically segregated opposition bloc failed to portray itself as a reliable alternative to a governing coalition.
  2. Economy: The most shocking result of this year’s election was arguably Modi’s defeat in the populous Uttar Pradesh region (UP). Young voters in Uttar Pradesh concerned with growing unemployment have come out in large numbers against the BJP. Modi’s divisive Hindu-nationalist platform has rallied core voters but failed to address the ‘kitchen table’ economic issues that have moved more voters than polls suggested.
  3. Democracy: Yesterday’s historic election wasn’t just important for India, it was a victory for struggling democracies worldwide. Last week, we reported a new claim by PM Modi that “he was sent by god.” – a worrying first sign that a new BJP supermajority could lead to constitutional changes that could put India’s democracy in jeopardy. In one reading of last night’s election results, voters have taken a stance against Modi’s Hindu-first vision for India and embraced a return to pluralism. 

Read our full analysis of the moral victory of the Indian opposition here


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