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Hala Gorani Tonight

Macron, Le Pen Parties Fare Poorly in Regional Elections; Ethiopia's Elections Chief Urges World To Support Monday's Vote, "Stressful And Imperfect Though It Is"; Weightlifter To Become First Trans Olympic Competitor. Aired 2-3p EST

Aired June 21, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. A new hardline president about to take office in Iran, what

it means for the country, the region and the nuclear deal. Then Europe's first COVID hotspot hits a big milestone. Restrictions are lifting across

most of Italy. CNN is live on the streets of Milan.

And underperforming, do disappointing results in France and Germany spell the end of the far-right's rise in Europe? We'll explore that question.

Iran has a new hardline president set to take office and Ebrahim Raisi is coming out swinging right out of the gate. We learned a bit about Raisi's

view of the U.S. today during his first press conference. He ruled out a meeting with the American President Joe Biden, and he had a blunt message

for Washington about the nuclear deal. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran, and he asked Raisi about it in a news conference.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've already told us how you feel about a direct meeting with President Biden. But would

you be willing to talk to and negotiate with the Biden administration? Would your administration be willing to do that? What do you expect of the

Biden administration and how do you feel about the U.S. proposal for a possible expanded nuclear agreement that would also cover Iran's ballistic

missiles and also regional issues as well?

EBRAHIM RAISI, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF IRAN (through translator): Americans that broke their promise and the Europeans also did not make good on their

commitments. So, we are stressing that the U.S. administration when it comes to its commitment within this deal, the U.S. needs to adhere to that

and act accordingly. Regional issues or ballistic issues are non- negotiable.


GORANI: Well, you can see the worldwide interest there in President Raisi who is the president-elect in Iran. Dozens and dozens of microphones

pointed at him during this news conference. He was the winner of Iran's -- it has to be said, uncompetitive presidential election on Saturday. All

serious rivals were barred from the race. Many voters didn't even turn out. The turnout was extremely low, the lowest historically since the Iranian

revolution in '79. CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Tehran with more on what we learned about Raisi during

this news conference. Fred.

PLEITGEN: Well, I think one of the main takeaways and probably the biggest surprise for a lot of the international media that was there, Hala, was

that Ebrahim Raisi of course of course is a candidate who essentially won this election which you're absolutely right was not very competitive, but

won this election on a platform of fighting corruption and of improving the economy. So, really much domestic issues that were at play, of course, his

way of trying to do that is very different than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani who wanted more foreign direct investment, whereas Ebrahim Raisi

wants the economy to be more self-sufficient and obviously the fighting corruption also a big thing.

But really, one of the big surprises is that the new administration before even coming into office certainly does seem to have a very clear foreign

policy strategy. It seems to be a very strong foreign policy strategy. It's one that's very outgoing as well. Ebrahim Raisi clearly saying Iran wants

to be engaged in the entire world and specifically in the Middle East. It's certainly one where as we just saw in that -- in that little bit we heard

from Ebrahim Raisi, the U.S. will be quite concerned about -- was pretty tough on the U.S. is in fact when asked whether he would even meet

President Biden, he said no. That was it.

He didn't even offer any sort of explanation or anything else. That was it. Another interesting thing I think that many took away is that Ebrahim Raisi

wants to continue the negotiations with Saudi Arabia, obviously trying to get some sort of detente between these two rivals here in the Middle East.

He also though, criticized the war in Yemen. But you do feel that this is a country that despite all its economic problems wants to very much remain

engaged here in this region and certainly wants a very strong, at least diplomatic and of course, many other ways, very strong presence here in

this region, but wants to be strong and sure also when it deals with other countries in the world, also of course the United States, Hala.

GORANI: All right, now, we were -- I mean, the President Rouhani, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, I mean, all this became household names around

the world during the Iran --


GORANI: Nuclear deal negotiations. So, we're going to be saying the name Ebrahim Raisi a lot in the coming years. And you had an opportunity to

speak to the man who will be the next foreign minister. What did he tell you?


PLEITGEN: Well, possibly, that's what some people are saying, that he might be the next foreign minister. But certainly, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

is also someone who has been deeply entrenched in the Iranian foreign policy power structure really if you will. He was deputy foreign minister a

couple of years ago, and he really did a lot to shape the way that Iran dealt with Syria for instance, with Iraq for instance as well and then

also, Africa and other Middle Eastern regions as well.

So, this is someone who is deeply entrenched in that power structure and is very close to Ebrahim Raisi, and gave me what he says he believes will be

the fundamentals of the new foreign policy that Iran wants to follow, which he calls active and dynamic. Let's listen in.



Raisi will be active and dynamic. A foreign policy that is balanced towards all countries with illogical and at the same time strong discourse, a

discourse that will be able to secure Iranian rights on all fronts.

PLEITGEN: And how do you think the relations with the United States will evolve under Ebrahim Raisi, because he's been very critical of the United

States in the past?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: It's the United States that has constantly lost opportunities. This will be much dependent on U.S. behavior and for them to

determine how they will be able to address the relationship with Iran.

PLEITGEN: Is there a different feeling, though, towards this administration, the Biden administration, than there was to the Trump


AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: I believe that Biden is seeking to return to the nuclear agreement. He should not be bringing new things up like the region, our

missiles and interfering in Iran's affairs. And the U.S. should focus on their return to the JCPOA and the commitments that they have under the


PLEITGEN: Did you have faith that the Iran nuclear agreement will come back on track?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: I'm seeing at the moment that the inner talks come to a point where the interest of our people will be secured, the implementation

of the JCPOA can be started.


PLEITGEN: So, there you have, Hala, that really what are going to be the fundamentals of Iran's foreign policy going forward under the Ebrahim Raisi

administration. You see an Iran that's really not willing to give the U.S. even an inch in policy as far as the region is concerned. And essentially

saying, look, if the U.S. wants better relations, they need to come to Iran. So, a really strong stance -- a really staunch stance as well and

certainly one that's very much in line, of course, also with the thinking of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hala.

GORANI: Right, well, there's very little daylight now between the president and the clerics. It wasn't the case with Rouhani. Thanks very

much Fred Pleitgen. Let's take a closer look now at Ebrahim Raisi; the 60- year-old is currently Iran's judiciary chief. He was the conservative frontrunner for president of Iran back in 2017, but he lost to the

incumbent Hassan Rouhani. Raisi was prosecutor general of Iran from 2014 to 2016, and the U.S. and the EU have sanctioned him for human rights

violations. Listen to how Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett describes him.


NAFTALI BENNETT, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: Of all the people that Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the hang man of Tehran, the man infamous among

Iranians across the world for leading the death committees, which executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years.


GORANI: Let's talk more about all of this with Holly Dagres; a senior fellow and IranSource editor at the Atlantic Council. Holly, thanks for

being with us. A bit of background now on Raisi. I mean, he's known for having signed off on some of -- on mass executions of dissidents in the

'80s. So, this is someone who -- talk to us a little bit, give us more background on him and what we should expect from him as president of Iran.

HOLLY DAGRES, SENIOR FELLOW & IRANSOURCE EDITOR, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Hala, one of the human rights organizations in the United States that had

described him essentially as having an ascension with dead bodies paving the way. So, that should give you kind of the mindset of where Ebrahim

Raisi is. And I think it's really noteworthy, yes, the 1988 massacre is something that is marked -- one of the darkest marks of the Islamic

Republic's history, and something that is going to be repeated throughout his tenure as president.

And it is something that -- it's been horrifically documented. And right now, we're having in human rights organizations like Amnesty International

calling for him to be tried for crimes against humanity on this matter, which is the execution of thousands of political prisoners.

GORANI: Yes, the turnout was extremely low in this election, probably because any viable opponent was sidelined. Less than 49 percent voter



The percentage of spoiled ballots, there were more people voting with spoiled ballots than for the next runner-up in this presidential election.

I mean, it gives you a sense of just how, I guess resigned ordinary voters are in Iran to this status quo and to the victory of Raisi.

DAGRES: Yes. I think it's really noteworthy that Iranians are joking now and saying that the second runner-up were these invalid ballots. I've seen

Iranians actually vote for the Batman. So --

GORANI: Yes --

DAGRES: But the reality is that this Iranians are disillusioned and fed up. It isn't just that the Guardian Council disqualified any competition.

It's the fact that their country is marred by a dire economy, by mismanagement and corruption, by sanctions that were re-imposed by the

Donald Trump administration after the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, but more importantly, the rising oppression over the years.

Iranians have not forgotten the November 2019 protests in which security forces killed and arrested thousands.

So, this is very much what has been in the minds of Iranians. And also, it's noteworthy that this happened, this mindset has been developing under

the moderate Rouhani government, meaning that they felt there hasn't been any tangible change in the country, and that they can't even rely on

reformists or modernists.

GORANI: So, there's a counterintuitive analysis that I'm sure you've seen over the last few weeks. And that analysis states this hardline president

is more align with the clerical accomplishment, and therefore, there's no middleman, there's no Rouhani to kind of interpret to the international

communities' message, bring it to the clerics. Here you have kind of one solid side negotiating. And there is a true desire in Iran to get some of

these very damaging sanctions lifted, and therefore a desire to get back to the negotiating table and get back to some sort of deal that would provide

economic relief for the country. Do you agree with that analysis?

DAGRES: Well, I think it's important to note that Ebrahim Raisi has publicly said that he supports the Iran nuclear agreement because it has

the blessing of the supreme leader. We also heard him say that today at his first presser. But the question now remains whether he's going to have that

-- the Iran nuclear agreement implemented before or after he takes office. And the other question is, how is this going to move forward? This is a

government official that has sanctions imposed on him for human rights abuses. I think this is going to be a pressing issue for the Iranian

negotiating team, and it's also --

GORANI: Yes --

DAGRES: Important to note that the U.S. also has its own demands. It wants a longer and stronger deal. It wants Iran's ballistic missile program

included. It wants human rights abuses included. It wants Iran's proxies included. And this is also a point of contention in these talks. So, it's

really unclear how far are they both going to make ends meet to get this deal revived.

GORANI: Sure --

DAGRES: And it will be interesting to see whether there's any -- an end to the talks before his taking of office in August or after.

GORANI: Yes, so August is a very important horizon to look toward. And the Iranian establishment has been very clear they don't want to include the

ballistic missiles in any deal. So, will that be a major stumbling block? Many questions. Holly Dagres, thank you very much for joining us, really

appreciate your time on the program this evening.

To COVID now, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his main priority is keeping the country safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of

that, he says, it will be a difficult year for international travel. The prime minister played down the prospects of significantly easing travel

restrictions any time soon, and he confirmed the government is looking at the possibility of exempting those who have been fully vaccinated from

having to quarantine. But he said that's not necessarily his main focus.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: When it comes to travel, we'll certainly be looking at that. But I want to stress that this is going

to be whatever happens, a difficult year for travel. There will be hassle. There will be delays, I'm afraid, because the priority has got to be to

keep the country safe and to stop the virus coming back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, no guarantees on no exception from quarantine from travelers who were double-jabbed?

JOHNSON: We're looking at it, but I want to stress that the emphasis is going to be on making sure that we can protect the country from the virus

coming back in.


GORANI: Maybe a bit late for that because the then -- I should say, the Delta variant is already accounting for almost all the cases in the U.K.

Meanwhile, starting today, Italy, you'll remember, they were at the front line, they were the country hardest hit at the beginning of the pandemic.


Well, Italy is now relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in all regions except one. CNN's Antonia Mortensen joins me now from the Milan, from the streets

of Milan. So, talk to us about what Italy has announced and how that will change everyday life for ordinary Italians.

ANTONIA MORTENSEN, CNN PRODUCER: Well, relaxing is the right word, Hala. I'm here in central Milan, and if I step out of the way a little bit,

you'll be able to see how people are relaxing and enjoying the lower restrictions. So, what this means is that most of Italy can now go back to

fairly normal life. The only restrictions that are still in place are face masks and social distancing. But that is being debated at the moment,

whether we'll be able to take our face masks off and when we're outside in the future.

But, for example, weddings have been reinstated here. And that's something that people are super happy about, and of course, foreigners who have

wanted to come and get married in Italy as well. And Italians really looking forward to traveling across regions, which they couldn't do before,

and curfews have been lifted, so people are able to stay out longer and you know, go out and about at night if they want to, Hala.

GORANI: So, I'm seeing people behind you, some of them are wearing masks and others are not wearing masks. So, I mean, it's similar to most large

cities across the world where people are just a little bit more relaxed. Because talk to us about the numbers in Italy. The case numbers are not

rising. I mean, there seems to be a positive development there in terms --


GORANI: Of the statistics.

MORTENSEN: Yes, I think people are feeling a lot more sort of confident and positive. Because for example, today, we saw the lowest number of cases

since last year in August, which, of course, is a really good sign, a positive sign, for the future. So, it really feels like a collective sigh

of relief. However, as you've been talking about on your show, the Delta variant is in the back of everyone's minds, and of course, it could be

compared to a situation like we saw last year where we reopened during the Summer and then unfortunately during the Autumn and Winter, we were hit

again with very high numbers. So, people are cautiously optimistic, but trying to make most of the moment, I would say.

GORANI: Sure, thank you, Antonia Mortensen, she's coming to us live from Milan. The difference between this year obviously and last year is this

year, many more people are vaccinated. So, fingers crossed, that means the numbers won't rise significantly after the Summer season. Hong Kong is also

significantly easing some of its restrictions. Chief executive Carrie Lam announced plans to reduce quarantine measures for incoming travelers at the

end of the month if they can prove that they're fully vaccinated. They must also have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Hong Kong marked two weeks Monday without any new local cases by the way, is one thing I wanted to add. No new local cases in two weeks. Olympic

officials have announced that they will allow spectators at the Tokyo games despite COVID concerns. Organizers say venues can seat up to 10,000 people,

but they must follow many safety guidelines. Selina Wang is in Tokyo.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Olympic organizers finally announced that spectators will be allowed at the Tokyo games, setting a cap of 50 percent

on venues up to a maximum of 10,000 people. But this decision goes against the advice of Japan's top COVID-19 adviser who recommended the Olympics be

held without spectators. Organizers say that this decision could change. The spectator cap could be reduced, spectators could still be banned

depending how the COVID-19 situation evolves in Japan.

Now, even though overseas fans are banned from these games, the medical community and the public here are worried that the games could lead to a

rebound of COVID-19 cases and overwhelm the medical system. Olympic organizers have also acknowledged that the Delta variant poses a major risk

to these games. Before any spectators that can attend these games, it's not going to be the usual celebration. They're asked to go directly from their

homes to Olympic venues and back, no shouting or cheering at the games and to wear their masks at all times.

And Japan also isn't going to get the economic boost it was hoping for from these games. Japan has sold about 4.5 million tickets domestically in

Japan, but because of the spectator caps, they're going to hold a lottery to reduce that number to about 2.7 million. The CEO of Tokyo 2020 also said

that they're expecting revenue to be less than half of the projected $820 million. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.



GORANI: Still to come tonight, the coronavirus in Brazil appears to be spreading faster than ever, and it is claiming the lives of younger people

at a horrifying rate. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Well, Brazil is one of the hardest hit countries in terms of COVID. In fact, COVID has killed more than half a million people. And

tragically, children are among the victims. They're dying there in fact at higher rates than almost anywhere else in the world. CNN's Isa Soares has

that story.



ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Little Sarah Gois was born this January in Brazil in the midst of a ravishing pandemic. Her 22-year-

old mother naturally besotted with her precious princess.

GOIS: I got days unending, got days unending.

SOARES: But even an abundance of love wasn't enough to stop her daughter from contracting COVID-19.

GOIS (through translator): I thought it was something I had done, maybe I passed on the virus. I didn't know what was happening around me. I knew

that the only thing I could do was to get on my knees and pray.

SOARES: Despite all her pleas, little Sarah died. She was only five months old.

GOIS: When she died, when they gave us the news, I was able to hold her. I was able to feel her one last time.

SOARES: It's a loss that is felt much more often in Brazil than in many other countries. While the Brazilian health ministry says 1,122 children

under the age of 10 have died since the start of the pandemic, one research group argues the death toll is actually closer to 3,000. This year alone

more than a 1,000 have lost their lives. And doctors tell us the Gamma or P.1 variant first identified in Brazil may not be to blame.

ANA LUIZA BIERRENBACK, EPIDEMIOLOGIST AT VITAL STRATEGIES: Is that kids have been dying more in Brazil since the original variant was here, so it

was not the addition of the P.1 variable that makes kids die, you know, even more than in other countries.

SOARES: Despite the rising numbers, baby Sarah was only tested for COVID- 19 12 days after she developed the first symptoms. Her mother tells me doctors assumed she had something else, a common misconception in Brazil,

tells me, pediatrician Andre Laranjeira.


ANDRE LARANJEIRA, PEDIATRICIAN (through translator): A lot of pediatricians had a certain resistance when it came to requesting COVID-19

tests for children when they were exhibiting those typical symptoms on their respiratory tract, runny nose, cough, fever. Practically all children

have those symptoms this time of the year.

SOARES: The doctor Laranjeira says this alone doesn't explain the higher death rate across Brazil. Outside the Masiobride(ph) Hospital on the

outskirts of Sao Paulo, one family is counting their blessings.


SOARES: Her 9-year-old daughter Manuela is finally out of ICU after some five days on a ventilator having contracted COVID-19. Back at home her

parents revealed their ordeal.

BASTO (through translator): Her kidney was no longer functioning. Her heart was beating irregularly. It was the end of the line for me.

KLEBER DE OLIVEIRA, DAUGHTER RECOVERED FROM COVID-19 (through translator): We were desperate. Our world had collapsed.

SOARES: They say it took four doctors to diagnose Manuela, but in the end she was admitted to an ICU and got the best possible treatment. But not all

in Brazil can have access to this type of health care.

LARANJEIRA: When you take the fatalities within the pediatric age group, more than 60 percent are from vulnerable socio-economic groups. It's simply

to turn a blind eye to that.

SOARES: Here, this disparity can be the difference between life and death, between the family that gets to celebrate and one that's forced to mourn.

Isa Soares, CNN.


GORANI: Well, this pandemic certainly has highlighted the inequalities not just in Brazil, but around the world. We'll be right back with a lot more.

Stay with CNN.



GORANI: French voters dealt President Emmanuel Macron a really embarrassing defeat in local and regional elections on Sunday. His party delivered some

pretty humiliating results, as did the National Front, the party of far right leader Marine Le Pen. Well, what's more, most voters just weren't

motivated. They were not motivated at all. An unprecedented 68 percent of the population just didn't turn out. We heard from some.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I came to have lunch. And I wasn't aware that there were elections today. I don't think I will go and


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I really don't know who to vote for. Maybe I'll abstain. But, well, normally, I don't believe in

abstaining, because it's not taken into account. But there's not much choice. That's why I'm hesitating.


GORANI: Cyril Vanier is covering the story, and he joins me now. Obviously, this high degree of abstention, but the big headline, the far right didn't

make the inroads that were potentially predicted for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron's party, dismal. Dismal results.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, Hala, the two biggest losers of these regional elections. Now, you always

have to caveat how you analyze the results of these local elections and how much -- what conclusions you can derive and then transpose to a national

level ahead of the presidential election next year. But that notwithstanding, it is, you know, there's just no denying that the

presidential party, the ruling party of Mr. Macron, simply does not resonate with voters at this stage in his presidential term a year before

the presidential election. It came in at about 10 percent if you aggregate the score on the national level. Ten percent, Hala, only. That places it

fifth among political parties in France right now behind the greens.

And if you look at Marine Le Pen, well, the -- or her far right party did better, 19 percent, but far lower than what had been predicted in the

polls, far lower than they had hoped for, they are not -- it is more than likely that they will not win any of France's regions. And they're doing

eight to nine percentage points below where they were in the last regional elections. So, the big take away from this, Hala, is that the duel between

Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen, which we saw in 2017, and which had been predicted by every political analyst for next year's presidential election,

may never end up happening at all.

GORANI: All right. Interesting. Thanks very much, Cyril Vanier. If indeed these results tell us anything about how voters will behave next year, far

right populist parties like Le Pen's are not just stumbling in France. In Germany, the right-wing AfD party performed much worse than expected in

state elections earlier this month, you'll remember that. Let's take a closer look at France and beyond. I'm joined by Rym Momtaz. She's

politically -- POLITICO Europe Senior Correspondent in France, and she's in Paris this evening. Rym, nice to see you.

First of all, what does -- what do these results tell us about Emmanuel Macron's very new party, which is so new, it has never competed in regional

and local elections before, it was created to serve him as a platform for the president in 2017.

RYM MOMTAZ, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO EUROPE: Well, first of all, I think it's very important to remind people that Emmanuel Macron never

really invested in turning La Republique En Marche movement that he launched when he launched his presidential bid in 2017. He never really

invested in turning it into a proper party and so that party was never able to actually implant itself and win local elections, whether it's mayoral

elections, or now the regional elections.

So that's one major defeat for Macron, but I'm not sure it was really very high on his agenda. What was very interesting about this election is

obviously the record level of abstention. And what it says about the general mood in the country. You'll recall that Emmanuel Macron promised in

2017 that he was going to give French people their trust back into, you know, in the political system, and clearly he has failed. These last two

local elections have had record abstention and that has to be a reflection of how they also feel about how he's run things.

GORANI: No, but I mean, the abstention numbers for 18 to 35 year olds in France, I mean, I actually thought there was a mistake when I saw that

figure. Less than 20 percent of them voted, 66 percent abstention overall in France. I mean, what's going on? Why so much apathy?

MOMTAZ: Well --

GORANI: Because by the way, I should add, as you know, French people are very vocal when they're unhappy. They have opinions about every issue. They

protest when they want to protest things that they are doing. So why not go to the polls when they have an opportunity to express themselves at the

ballot box?


MOMTAZ: I just want to say I don't know if you're picking up on some of the noise around me, but there's the federale musique today. So it's the fiesta

music and there's a marching band just going under my apartment.

But just to go back to your point, yes, French people are hyper political. But what we are seeing is definitely a crisis of democracy in France. There

is a sense of alienation with the political parties. When you look at the polls, polling numbers and data, people who abstained, they say that the

reason why they abstained is because they feel like the political parties and the politicians don't really deliver on their promises. They also don't

reflect the concerns and don't understand the concerns of the citizens and so they feel like it is useless to turn out and go vote.

Also very important, something that Emmanuel Macron has really exacerbated, he has hyper-presidentialized and hyper-personalized the already very

presidential system. And so people feel like the only election that matters is the presidential one because the only person who has any power is the


GORANI: What about Marine Le Pen, far right party that underperformed? In Germany, the AfD in recent state elections underperformed, what does that

tell us about the populace in Europe?

MOMTAZ: So what we've seen in polls and election results over the past 12 months is that the pandemic has actually hurt the populace. In Italy, in

the Netherlands, in Germany, and in France, they have actually done much worse than they were expected. And that, according to pollsters and

political scientists I've been talking to, just shows that people still prefer to trust those who have been tried in a government, who have that

experience to get them through such an unprecedented pandemic.

It doesn't mean that any year, for example, the French electorate is not going to decide to do once again what they did in 2017, which is to give --

to vote for someone who has never actually governed before.

GORANI: And what about Macron's, the fact that though he hasn't invested in LRM, La Republique En Marche Party, which was more a vehicle for him to win

the presidency, I imagine, than a traditional party as France has been used to traditionally. What does that mean for him next year? The presidential

election is looming for him?

MOMTAZ: So it's interesting because his advisors always say, look, he's still extremely popular. But actually, if you look at the detail, he is as

popular as Lionel Jospin was in 2002, when everyone expected him to be in the runoff, and then he didn't make it to the runoff. He's also -- he has

lower favorable polls than Sarkozy and Hollande -- sorry, excuse me, than Chirac and Mitterrand were the only two presidents who won reelection

actually. He is polling better than Sarkozy and Hollande had at the same moment in their presidency, but those two didn't win a reelection. So, it's

not a great comparison.

GORANI: Right. But they're -- they seem to be confident, why? Because there's no credible rival, no credible candidate that has the kind of

momentum that would be needed to defeat an incumbent?

MOMTAZ: So that's exactly what Macron's camp is banking on. They're banking on the fact that so far, he has succeeded in completely, at least

destabilizing the traditional right-wing parties, but also sort of decimating the left-wing parties. And so he's still playing in that field.

That's one thing they're still banking on. They're also banking on the fact that at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, the French electorate

is going to turn out to vote when they're presented with sort of the Manichaean choice, which is either Macron or the far-right.

GORANI: Right. Right.

MOMTAZ: One thing that this election on Sunday sort of threw into confusion is, this was one of the main arguments that Macron's party was putting

forward, which is that they were expecting Marine Le Pen's party to do very well. And so they were saying you guys need to come out and vote because

that can't be the solution. And that doesn't seem to have resonated with the electorate. So, we'll have to wait and see until 2022 to see if that is

an effective slogan or rallying cry.

GORANI: Well, one of the women CNN spoke to didn't even know there was an election going on yesterday so it doesn't seem like there's any passion.

Marching band passed, it sounds like, for the musique -- the federale musique for our viewers who are not familiar, it's a yearly fiesta in the

streets of French cities celebrating music. I guess it was probably canceled last year and it's back this year, right?


MOMTAZ: Yes. And since today is the first day of summer, it always marks the first day of summer so the 21st of June. And there's actually a really

big electronic music concert happening at the (INAUDIBLE) tonight where we're told that people are going to be seated to respect COVID measures.

I'm not sure how that's going to work out.

GORANI: Well, we'll see. Thank you very much, Rym Momtaz, of POLITICO. A pleasure talking to you.

And polls closed in Ethiopia just a short time ago after extended voting, although some people are still waiting in line to cast their ballots.

Today's election was a critical test for the Prime Minister who promised the country's first attempt at a free and fair vote. But some say the

process was flawed. Some opposition figures remain in jail and parts of the country couldn't vote at all, including, of course, the Warzone of Tigray.

CNN's Larry Madowo in Addis Ababa with more. So people still standing in line, how's the day gone, Larry?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very busy day, Hala. We have seen people in the hundreds come out to this specific police station in

Addis Ababa, and some spent five, six hours on the line. Even though the National Elections Board of Ethiopia told us it only took 30 seconds,

that's not the reality here. It's 41 minutes after voting should have stopped. There's still about 100 people in the line here. They're allowed

to vote as long as they're already in the queue.

And for many we'll be speaking to, they see this as an important step in midwifing a democratic transition in Ethiopia. One gentleman that I spoke

to, a 70-year-old who's recently had surgery, but he still came out here and stood a couple of hours just to cast his vote. This is what he told me.


TEDROS TADESSA, ADDIS ABABA RESIDENT: It's democratic and nobody showed me what to do. Nobody forced me what to -- whom to elect. It's my own right

and my own respect that I voted my own. I put mine on the ballot.


MADOWO: Hala, even with 20 percent of constituents not participating, there's going to be another election in those places in September. This is

still seen as a necessity as an imperfect process, but a way to get to that better election next time.

GORANI: Yes. And when do we know the results? And I'm just curious, are you at a polling station right now? Can you just kind of show us what's going

on where you are?

MADOWO: Absolutely. I am at a polling station. And I can show you a bit of what's happening here. So what you have is people coming to the last step

over there. They present their identification, they check against the registered voters, and then they get a chance to actually cast their

ballots. And they have their fingertips mapped so, you know, you cannot vote twice.

And I've been incredibly surprised, actually, Hala, about how patient people have been here. If you imagine staying in line five, six hours, at

some point in the day, it was raining, and people were scattered and tried to get shelter. But as soon as it stopped, they came right back and waited

a few more hours. So, they will begin the counting as soon as everybody has voted who's in line and so we will start to get a sense of -- at

constituency level, or at least polling station level, how it's turning out. The actual results might take slightly longer, though the National

Elections Board has stated they expect that within five days, they should have a result out, but they're allowed a lot a little longer if it comes to


GORANI: All right, Larry Madowo in Addis Ababa. Thank you very much for that report. And we'll keep following the voting. CNN has learned that a

prominent Emirati activist has died in a car accident near London. Alaa Al- Siddiq was the Executive Director of the rights organization, ALQST. The group says authorities have found no suggestion of foul play. She regularly

called for political reform in the United Arab Emirates, and for the release of her father, a jailed political dissident in the UAE.

Russian authorities have charged the suspect with the murder of an American student. Thirty-four-year-old Catherine Serou went missing last week. Her

body was found on Saturday. Court documents alleged the suspect picked up the former Marine in his car on Tuesday and killed her an hour later. She

was studying at a university east of Moscow. Her mother said she hoped to become an immigration lawyer.

Still to come tonight, China reaches a major milestone in vaccinations but one city is facing a major outbreak of the Delta variant. We'll be right




GORANI: One Chinese city is tightening restrictions after discovering a new COVID outbreak. Health officials in Shenzhen have discovered the worrying

Delta variant in at least 38 patients tied to a flight that arrived from Johannesburg June 10th. Shenzhen has closed public spaces and more than 400

flights have been canceled. You can see what a ghost town the city's airport looks like now.

It's not all bad. COVID news in China, the country's vaccination plan has reached a big milestone. One billion doses have been administered according

to the Health Commission there. That Delta variant first discovered in India is spreading fast. It's actually a faster-spreading variant of the

virus. You can see here which countries have detected it. Our Michael Holmes reports it has presented an unexpected challenge in the Russian


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aggressive and infectious. That's the way Moscow's mayor describes a Coronavirus variant spreading through the

city. Health officials in Moscow reported more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic

began, that from the city's mayor who says the Delta variant, first identified in India, is responsible for nearly 90 percent of new



SERGEY SOBYANIN, MOSCOW MAYOR (through translator): The situation in Moscow, with the spread of COVID-19 disease, is rapidly deteriorating and

the dynamics are quite unexpected, since more than 60 percent of Muscovites have either been ill or vaccinated.


HOLMES: The Kremlin says vaccinations are critical to protect against the variant spread, but many Russians are still hesitant to get the Sputnik



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are afraid of getting sick that we did not get vaccinated because we are also afraid of that.


HOLMES: The W.H.O. says Moscow is just one of several places where the Delta variant is thriving. And with so many people across the world still

unvaccinated, there's plenty of opportunity for it to circulate even more.


SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, W.H.O. CHIEF SCIENTIST: The Delta variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its

significantly increased transmissibility.


HOLMES: One W.H.O. official says Africa is particularly vulnerable because of a lack of vaccines. The Delta variant has been detected in at least 14

countries on the continent. But even countries that have had success with their vaccination programs are being inundated with new cases. More than 46

percent of the population in the U.K. is fully vaccinated, but COVID-19 infections are increasing there once again, the Delta variant fueling the


A similar spike in Indonesia, authorities in one district giving live chickens as an incentive to older residents to get the shots.


Countries around the world trying everything they can to catch up to this fast-moving virus. Michael Holmes, CNN.

GORANI: And still to come tonight, a trailblazer prepares for the Summer Olympics. CNN talks to Uganda's first and only female boxer to compete at

the games.


GORANI: Well, this will certainly be talked about a lot when it happens in August. A weightlifter from New Zealand is taking a big step forward for

trans athletes worldwide. This summer, Laurel Hubbard will become the first openly transgender athlete to ever compete in the Olympic Games. She was

selected for New Zealand's national team on Monday. The New Zealand Olympic Committee says it is committed to supporting all the eligible athletes and

ensuring that their mental and physical well-being is met. There have been some opposition among a few athletes and this is a story we'll continue to

follow and hopefully speak with members of the Olympic Committee about it.

Now to another Olympic first, this one out of Uganda, a female boxer will make history when she represents her country at the Tokyo Games. Catherine

Nanziri talked to CNN Selina Wang about what she hopes to achieve.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For female boxers in Uganda, it's easy to keep a social distance in the ring. Days before setting off for the Tokyo

Olympics, it's just Catherine Nanziri and her training partner, but Nanziri is used to going it alone. She's Uganda's first and only female Olympian in

the sport.


CATHERINE NANZIRI, UGANDAN OLYMPIC BOXER: It's written in our historical, my name, it will be the name that is announced that I was the first female



WANG: Two male boxers will join Nanziri on the trip to Tokyo. More than half the medals that Uganda has ever won at the Olympics have come in men's

boxing events. Nanziri says in Uganda, women have been shut out of a male- dominated sport. It wasn't until 2012 that women's boxing was included in the Olympics at all.


NANZIRI: I've been bullied by some male boxers and people around me because I was a female.


WANG: As Nanziri prepares to take on the world, her home country has turned its main sports stadium into a COVID ward.


Uganda is suffering a COVID surge with less than one percent of the population vaccinated. But the government has managed to set aside doses to

fully vaccinate the 26 athletes on the Olympic team.


DONALD RUKARE, PRESIDENT, UGANDA OLYMPICS COMMITTEE : There's been a rush on the vaccines. Plan B was to make sure that, A, that we take advantage of

some of the regional hubs that the IOC has set up, for example in Rwanda, our neighbors.


WANG: A coach on the Uganda team tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Japan on Saturday despite being vaccinated and recording a negative test on

departure. He's been moved to a government quarantine facility as the Uganda athletes entered a bubble of their own in Izumisano City, Osaka

Prefecture. It's an early test for the Japanese government's plan to keep the public safe while welcoming arrivals, including from hotspots like

Uganda. Why are you confident you can host this team safely?

"We've spent more than three years preparing for the team," he says. "They're limited to the hotel and training place." Osaka prefecture has

also seen COVID surges and been under a state of emergency that may only end shortly before the games begin. Nanziri said she'll follow the rules to

keep out of danger.


NANZIRI: If me as a person do test positive, my friends, too, that group of boxing, they will also lose their chance because of one mistake I've made.


WANG: As Japan prepares to host the world's largest sporting event, the country's on high alert for the danger that can come from just one small

mistake. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


GORANI: Well, earlier I told you that COVID restrictions are being lifted in Italy. Well, Prada is celebrating that post-COVID reemergence we've all

been craving. The brand is normally known for pretty subtle and sleek aesthetics. But they've switched that for a more colorful and vibrant style

in their new collection with bucket hats and skorts for men. A skort is a skirt and a short combined. I don't think lifeguards will miss anyone

sporting these colors on the beach and it's all outdoors obviously. COVID- safe. Prada is back on the catwalk but on a sandy one.

Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. Stay with NN. There's a lot more head after a quick break. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is coming your way and

I'll see you same time, same place next time.