Four things to expect this week: The world’s biggest election (and a smaller one)


It’s Monday, it’s a new week, and while we won’t pretend to know everything that’s going to happen over the next seven days, we have some sense of what’s coming up.

Here’s your briefing on some of the most important and interesting stories happening in the week ahead.

1) To delay or not to delay

What’s happening?

EU leaders will meet on Wednesday to discuss whether to grant a delay to the UK’s Brexit date.

Why does it matter?

In theory, the UK is still leaving the European Union on Friday: that is, unless EU leaders agree to a request from Theresa May to delay the date.

The emergency summit in Brussels will discuss the case she made last week for a delay until 30 June, with the British government unable to agree the terms on which to depart.

Mrs May believes a further postponement to the Brexit date is needed if the UK is to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, a scenario both EU leaders and many British MPs believe would create problems for businesses and cause difficulties at ports.

A no-deal Brexit on Friday seems highly unlikely. But then again, it’s not as though this process has proven predictable…

2) India votes…

What’s happening?

Voting in India’s general election begins on Thursday. Because it’s such a huge logistical challenge (in fact, with 900 million voters, it’s the world’s biggest democratic exercise) the election continues until 19 May.

Why does it matter?

While China is currently the world’s most populous country (with 1.39bn people), it will soon be overtaken by India (which has 1.34bn). So whoever wins is likely to lead the world’s biggest population.

Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, will hope it will be him again. But analysts are divided on whether he will be able to win a simple majority this time around, and he is facing a challenge from opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.

We’ll be bringing you detailed coverage on every day of the election.

3) … and Israel votes too…

What’s happening?

India isn’t the only country electing its leader: the same is happening in Israel on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoping for a fifth term in office.

Why does it matter?

If he beats Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff for the Israeli military, Mr Netanyahu will become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Polls seem to indicate this is likely to happen and that Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition will come out on top.

It could also be worth keeping an eye on how one ultra-nationalist party performs, as our correspondent Yolande Knell points out. The Zehut party could well become kingmakers: they take a hardline stance on Palestinians and are calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

4) … just before it reaches the moon

What’s happening?

An Israeli spacecraft will attempt to land on the Moon on Thursday.

Why does it matter?

The mission heralds a new era in space exploration.

If the Israeli robot Beresheet is able to land on the Moon, it will be the first time a privately financed mission will have done so (up to now, only government space agencies from the US, Russia and China have managed soft touchdowns).

Beresheet has already taken one giant leap, ensuring last week that Israel became only the seventh nation to orbit the moon.

If it touches down successfully, it will take photos to send back to Earth and engage in some magnetic investigations.

Here’s why this space mission is unlike any other.


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