Britain votes as the world watches
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will face off today in a narrow race as Britons determine which party will lead them through major decisions about their passports and their economy.
The results will determine how — and maybe even whether — Britain will exit the European Union, three and a half years after it voted to do so. The two largest parties running are Conservative and Labour.
Boris Johnson, the Conservative leader, is offering a scorched-earth version of Brexit, in which he aims to bulldoze political gridlock with the threat of a no-deal exit from the E.U. — something economists believe could disrupt the global economy — while avoiding details about the next phases of the likely yearslong divorce and trade-deal process.
In the final rounds of the campaign, he faced intense criticism over the future of the National Health Service, Britain’s cherished health system, which has not fared well under his party.
Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, would be Britain’s most left-wing prime minister in living memory. He promises to end austerity and wants a second referendum on Brexit (though he refuses to say which way he would vote).
Jewish leaders in Britain have accused him of tolerating anti-Semitism in the party, which he has denied and sometimes refused to address.
What to know: The polls open at 7 a.m. local time and close at 10 p.m., or 6 a.m. Hong Kong time, with the results of a usually reliable exit poll announced almost immediately after that.
How it works: If one party wins more than half of the parliamentary seats, it will form the government, and its leader will become prime minister. If no party does, the party with the best showing will get a chance to form a government.
On the ground: James Yardley, who leads our London newsroom and has been supervising our Brexit coverage, says: “Most people expect the Conservatives to win, but the question is whether they get a governing majority. If they do, it certainly seems like Remain is dead. The question we’ll sort out over the next year is what kind of Brexit we’ll have.”
Myanmar leader’s defense: Genocide case is flawed
A day after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi listened at The Hague to testimony of horrors inflicted upon the Rohingya Muslims — mass rape, babies thrown to their deaths, villages burned down — the de facto civilian leader defended her country’s actions.
Human rights experts have called it ethnic cleansing or genocide, and U.N. officials have said the nation’s military generals should be tried for the gravest crimes against humanity. But Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi called it the result of “cycles of intercommunal violence.”
And she chided outsiders for misunderstanding the situation.
Context: Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted for decades in Myanmar, gradually losing rights to education, health care and even citizenship. Hundreds of thousands fled the violence, but half a million Rohingya still live in Rakhine, the center of the violence, where they have been herded into internment camps.
But the slice of it being traded is tiny, the investors were domestic rather than foreign, and the money raised is less than the crown prince had hoped. The proceeds go to his Vision 2030 plan, which aims to finance vast projects in renewable energy and real estate and reduce dependence on oil.
Other challenges: Growing worries about the role of fossil fuels in climate change, as well as a slowing world economy, are casting a shadow.
If you have some time, this is worth it
The year in pictures
The Sheep Shearing and Ram Parade in Queensland, Australia, above, is where our reporter went in February to show that despite tensions between China and Australia, the rate of Chinese tourists visiting the country was surging.
The photograph is part of our collection of our best of the year — a selection our editors made from more than 5.6 million images.
Here’s what else is happening
China: The country nudged past Turkey as the leading jailer of journalists this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in its annual survey, partly because of severe repression in the Xinjiang region.
New Zealand: A scientist said there was a strong chance of another eruption soon at the volcano where at least six people were killed; the authorities have said eight others are presumed dead. The area has been too dangerous for rescue crews to respond.
India: The government is defending a divisive new citizenship bill awaiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s signature. Indian Muslims says its exclusion of migrant Muslims from a fast-track to citizenship is discriminatory, but officials say it will help persecuted minorities find a safe haven.
Independence vote: Bougainville, a collection of islands in the South Pacific, has voted overwhelmingly to become independent from Papua New Guinea, which would make it the world’s newest country.
Boeing: A U.S. Federal Aviation Administration review after a deadly accident in October 2018 found that the Boeing 737 Max was likely to crash again if federal agents did not intervene. But the agency believed that it had taken the necessary actions. In March, there was a second crash in Ethiopia, bringing the human toll to 346.
Israel: The country appears headed for a record third straight election as a midnight deadline approaches, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, Benny Gantz, managing to form a coalition government.
Hong Kong: A group of foreign experts quit a panel hired to lend credibility to the territory’s police watchdog as it investigated allegations of brutality, saying the agency lacked powers.
Snapshot: Above, Voskhod, a space-themed restaurant in Moscow with solar-system-inspired lighting. It’s part of a growing trend of themed eateries, especially ones rooted in Soviet-era nostalgia. “There’s a Russian saying: All new is just well-forgotten old,” said one restaurateur.
What we’re looking at: This interactive feature about the ocean’s depths by Neal Agarwal, a self-described “creative coder.” Michael Roston, a science editor, writes: “Just keep scrolling until you reach the bottom. Along the way you’ll learn a lot about our seas, and perhaps even feel a sense of calm.”
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
Britain’s muzzle on the news media
In Britain’s divisive, hugely consequential election today, exit polls won’t be cited. There won’t be interviews with candidates or voters or news shows debating the merits of the parties or the issues.
Only after the polls close at 10 p.m. local time will the floodgates open.
The muted coverage stems from British laws meant to keep broadcast coverage from influencing voters.
The broadcast laws emerged in the 20th century, at a time when TV and radio were very powerful, and before online journalism was a force. As licensed entities, news outlets were required to act in the public interest, which was interpreted to include protecting voters from last-minute influences.
By voluntarily staying within the spirit of the laws, Britain’s print and online news media outlets, and foreign news organizations operating within the country, avoid tempting lawmakers to officially expand the constraints — or possibly add more.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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