Return to Transcripts main page
Olympic Preps Enter Finals Stretch With Games A Month Away; First Person Charged Under National Security Law On Trial; 10% Of World's Population Fully-Vaccinated Against COVID-19; Nicaragua's Former First Lady Detained by National Police; Vote Counting Underway in Ethiopia; Britney Spears to Break Her Silence about Conservatorship. Aired 12-12:45a ET
Aired June 23, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM, one month to go, officials push ahead with the Tokyo Games. Despite warnings, it could turn into an Olympic-sized super spreader event. Trial without a jury, the first person charged under Hong Kong's national security law heads to court. And there are new concerns that COVID vaccine inequality could get much worse, and warnings that poor nations are already running out of the little supply they have.
So, yes, it's game on for the Tokyo Olympics as preparations enter the homestretch. Now, the games will officially kick off about a month from now after the pandemic delayed them you'll remember by a year. Now on Tuesday, organizers unveiled the official posters for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They'll eventually be housed at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. Now the posters are a longstanding tradition, this time for games that will be anything but traditional.
Organizers have made widespread changes to try and prevent the Olympics from becoming a COVID super spreader event, but that hasn't won over a very skeptical Japanese public with the majority of people still opposed to holding those games. CNN's Blake Essig joins us now live from Tokyo with more.
And, yes, Blake, you can hardly blame the Japanese public, right, for being less than enthusiastic about all this. You know, COVID has hit quite hard unexpectedly, really, in the last few months. And now they still have this low vaccination rate. There wasn't a lot of enthusiasm, it has to be said from the games from the beginning and yet what seems to be weighing on them more these days?
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Paul, when it comes to the enthusiasm, it's easy to understand why that these games have remained deeply unpopular for as long as they have. There legitimate concerns about the health and safety of not only the Japanese people here, but people all around the world. You have tens of thousands of not only athletes, but officials, support staff, foreign delegates, coming in to Japan for these games.
Yes, Olympic officials say that about 70 to 80 percent of them will be vaccinated but proof is in the pudding here. And just this weekend, on Saturday, the team from Uganda, a coach, eight athletes, and an interpreter all arrived into Japan, one of them tested positive for COVID-19. That's after going through all the protocols, two tests before boarding the flight and then being tested upon arrival here in Japan.
And the concern is regarding the nightmare that is the logistics of these Olympic Games.
They're still trying to figure out the rules, the regulations, the protocols to put into in place to keep the people here safe. The governor of Osaka came out and expressed disappointment and anger in a way that even though the coach that tested positive was then quarantined at Narita Airport, the other eight athletes and the interpreter were allowed to get on a bus and go to the city in Osaka where they're going to be holding their training camp. They've since been deemed close contacts and are now quarantining until I believe July 3. But still the fact that they were able to get on a bus knowing that these people might be deemed close contact and expose the virus to potentially anybody that they might have come into contact with.
So, there are still a lot of concerns surrounding the health and safety. But the reality is, in just one month in this stadium right behind me, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic ceremonies are going to be held, despite the fact that the will of the people has largely been ignored from not only the IOC, but also the Japanese government, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, Blake. It's been a divisive topic not just inside Japan, but also with other Olympic participants from around the world. Blake, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.
Now, for more, let's bring in Jules Boykoff. He is a Politics and Government Professor at Pacific University in Oregon and an expert on the Olympics. I have to ask you, are you surprised that the IOC is still so determined to go ahead with this? You know, you've pointed out Japan doesn't have a choice here but the IOC does.
JULES BOYKOFF, POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT PROFESSOR, PACIFIC UNIVERSITY: I'm not surprised. As someone who studied the International Olympic Committee and the Olympics for some time now, I'm not surprised that the International Olympic Committee is pushing ahead with the Olympics, even under pandemic conditions. After all, the Summer Olympics are the golden cash spigot for the International Olympic Committee, and they're not about to winch it shut just for a little old pandemic.
It's caused a whole lot of problems inside of Japan, where 86 percent of the population says they're concerned that if the games go on, there could be a resurgence of Coronavirus in the country. It's perfectly understandable that people in the country would be jittery about hosting an optional sports spectacle during a global health pandemic.
NEWTON: Yes, and you make such a good point, right? Optional. This is not a matter of life and death. And as you've pointed out in your books, a lot of this is about money. Let's turn to the athletes for a moment. You know, Blake, you know, just set out some of the risks, right, the risks that there could be an outbreak, it's a serious risk. It's a real risk. The athletes don't seem very happy about it. Some have pulled out of the events altogether, you know. You're a former pro-athlete. What do you think about the protocols that you have seen that have been put in place so far?
BOYKOFF: Well, don't take it from this political scientist, take it from some medical scientists who took a close look at them and wrote an editorial for the New England Journal of Medicine and they said that these were not best scientific practices that they were seeing in their so-called playbooks of the International Olympic Committee.
There were many substandard elements. For example, they opened up the Olympic Village where all the Olympic athletes will stay this weekend, they opened it up last weekend, and they saw that there were multiple beds in some of these rooms. The best practice would, of course, to be having each individual athlete housed separately.
In addition, they're being asked to use a mobile app to track their contact tracing, rather than wearable kind of materials that you can wear for that kind of thing. Also, the International Olympic Committee is not even supplying top quality masks. And on top of all that, many athletes have been disgruntled about the fact that they've been asked to sign a waiver that releases Olympic organizers from liability should they contract COVID-19 or get killed by the heat in Japan, which is also another issue.
So I have signed many a waiver in my day, let me tell you, Paula, but to see it in black and white that the International Olympic Committee was saying to athletes, all the risk is piled on your shoulders, even if you die from COVID-19, that was a lot.
NEWTON: Yes, and as you say, a lot in terms of the expectations. They're going there for this top athletic event. And yet some of them may be really concerned about their safety the minute that they get there, you know. Your books on the Olympics have been about -- very blunt, really, clear-eyed view about money and the politics that surround the Olympics. Do you consider this a pivotal moment for the Olympic Movement depending on how these games go?
BOYKOFF: Absolutely. This is an unparalleled moment in the political history of the Olympics. What's happened with Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee ramming forward even during a pandemic, has really stripped the varnish off the Olympic project and gotten a lot of people around the world to take a deeper look and what they're seeing isn't necessarily pretty. We were talking about the money side before these Olympics and all Olympics before them, always bust their budgets.
[00:10:02] These were supposed to cost $7.3 billion in Japan. Now they're costing $30 billion. People around the world are looking deeper and seeing that there's a pattern of militarization of the Olympic City. And those militarized items stay there after the games, also of displacement and forced eviction of everyday working people in Olympic City. And finally, greenwashing, talking a big green game, but not really following through. And because Tokyo has been such a debacle, really, in the recent months, it's opened up a lot of eyes around the world about some of the deeper, more ingrained problems with the Olympics.
NEWTON: Yes, absolutely. And before I let you go, how do you think they will handle any, we'll call it a catastrophic event where they have a huge outbreak, do you actually think they have to cancel whole events, whole competitions, even if they're not canceling all the games?
BOYKOFF: That is a really good and difficult question. Hopefully, it won't come to that. But there needs to be a solid plan in place. And we're hearing from athletes and in athletic administrators that this all needs to be set out in advance. And it really raises questions about even where athletes will be staying in the Olympic Village. Should they really be housed with their team, like from the same country?
BOYKOFF: Or should they be by sport so like if there's an outbreak, at least it's just one sport that's affected instead of all the sports? These are still open questions, unfortunately. And that's been one of the big critiques of the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers, is that their plan isn't solid even now around a month before the games.
NEWTON: And it's set just a month to go here. Not a lot of time to figure this out. Jules Boykoff, thanks so much, really appreciate your perspective.
BOYKOFF: My pleasure.
NEWTON: Now, the trial is underway for the first person charged under Hong Kong's new National Security Law, but there is no jury. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to secession and terrorism charges. He's accused of slamming police with a motorcycle last year while carrying a banner calling for Hong Kong's liberation. CNN's Anna Coren is live this hour with more from Hong Kong.
And now Anna, set the scene for us here. This, as we've been saying, is the first of many trials to come that will actually test what this national security law is all about.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Paula. We're standing outside Hong Kong's High Court where the first National Security Law trial is underway. The defendant is 24-year-old Tong Ying-kit, a Hong Kong waiter who was arrested on the 1st of July last year. That was a day after this controversial law was implemented. Now he was driving his motorcycle flying a flag with the slogan
"Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time," that slogan is now outlawed here in Hong Kong. He then crashed into a police barrier, a police blockade, injuring three officers, including himself. He has been charged with incitement to secession as well as terrorism, also charged with driving dangerously and causing grievous bodily harm.
Now we went inside the courtroom a little bit earlier. And Tong, he is sitting in the dock, wearing a dark suit, glasses. He looks quite relaxed. He's flanked by three police officers. It's a small courtroom, but it is packed. There are three judges, Paula, three judges appointed by the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam. There is no jury. Those seats are completely empty. This is despite Tong's repeated legal attempts to have a trial with a jury. However, the Justice Secretary said no, citing perceived risk of personal safety of the jurors and their families.
Now 113 people have now been arrested under the National Security Law, more than 60 charged. The latest arrest occurred just a short time ago. Police said that they arrested a 55-year-old columnist from Apple Daily, that pro-democracy newspaper, which was raided last week. Five executives arrested, two charged, the other three have been placed on bail or out on bail. But obviously the founder, Jimmy Lai, he is behind bars. He, too, has been charged under the national security law for colluding with foreign forces. But he is in jail for his involvement in the protest movement in 2019.
Now, Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, says this is not a crackdown on press freedoms, but this is the government protecting Hong Kong's National Security Law, Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, Anna. Certainly a chilling effect that this law has already had. And as we say, it's the first time now that it will be in court. Anna, you're going to continue to update this, Anna, as the hours were on here from Hong Kong. Appreciate it.
Now despite the historically low turnout, thousands of supporters welcome the first speech by Iran's new president-elect.
The hardliner's message ahead. Plus, the World Health Organization is warning of more COVID-19 vaccine shortages in dozens of countries. Why does this keep happening?
NEWTON: At a critical moment in the talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. has now seized 33 websites connected to Iran. Now if you go to the website of the Iranian News Network, Press TV right now you'll see it there, because that is what you will see. The Justice Department says all the news and media sites were part of disinformation campaigns meant to subvert U.S. democracy. The moves come just days after Iran elected a new hardline president. Ebrahim Raisi is -- has made it clear it'll take a tough stand with Washington when he takes office in August. Fred Pleitgen reports on the president-elect's first speech to his supporters.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was really very much a victory lap for Ebrahim Raisi as he came here to the Imam Reza Shrine in the Holy City of Masha to deliver his speech to people who no doubt are very much Raisi. Now, of course, this is also a very, very important day that this was taking place as the folks here are commemorating the birth of the Imam Reza.
And Ebrahim Raisi, of course, has a lot of followers here. There were tens of thousands of people who came here to the shrine to listen to him speak. And Ebrahim Raisi said that he would do exactly the things that he said in his election campaign. He said that he would fight corruption, but he would also try to improve the economic situation of this country, but also move Iran on a more conservative track.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT: In domestic and foreign policy, upholding the dignity of these people, of our nation and our people and in no negotiations can we allow the dignity of the Iranian nation to be damaged. In our foreign policy and in our engagement with everyone across the globe, our foundation will be the safeguarding and increasing of the dignity of the people of your own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Now, of course, one of the other things that Ebrahim Raisi has said is that he plans to follow a much tougher line towards the United States. He has said categorically he will not meet with U.S. President Joe Biden. He has also said, while he hopes that the nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran, and other world powers can be once again fully implemented, there is no way with the current Iranian leadership that it could be expanded, for instance, to include Iran's Ballistic Missile Program and also other regional issues as well.
Now, a lot of the things that Ebrahim Raisi is criticized for internationally, of course, being very tough when he was the head of Iran's judiciary, that's exactly the thing that endears him to some of the folks here who are his followers,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Raisi is the candidate of the revolutionary front. We totally support him because he has the right beliefs. And also he has been in the judiciary a few years and has shown good performance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We hope that he will solve people's problems. We hope the economic issues of the country will be solved and that the youth will have an easy life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Even before Ebrahim Raisi began his speech, there were many people who were out here listening to a lot of prayers waving Iranian flags. [00:20:03]
Of course, a lot of them are hoping that indeed this country will move in a more conservative direction despite the fact that, of course, the voter turnout for the election that took place was at a historic low. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Masha, Iran.
NEWTON: So we're getting a better sense of the Taliban's recent advances in Afghanistan as the U.S. continues its military withdrawal. Now, the U.N.'s Special Envoy on Afghanistan says since May, militants have now gained control of 50 of the country's 370 districts. The Taliban's intensifying campaign comes just months ahead of the U.S. deadline to end America's longest war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH LYONS, HEAD OF U.N. ASSISTANCE MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN: For the Taliban to continue this intensive military campaign would be a tragic course of action. It would lead to increased and prolonged violence that would extend the suffering of the Afghan people and threatened to destroy much of what has been built and hard won in the past 20 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: And she added this, Lyons says most districts taken by the Taliban surround provincial capitals, and that suggests they will try and take those capitals once U.S. and NATO forces are fully withdrawn.
Ten percent of the world's population or nearly eight hundred million people are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Now that's according to a major data research group, Our World in Data. The vaccination coverage varies, as you know, greatly from region to region. And usually it's dependent on the country's income level. So far, North America, Europe, and China are leading the way with the most vaccinations worldwide. But many African nations are lagging behind, less than one percent of the population right across the continent is fully vaccinated. And COVID-19 cases are now increasing across Africa.
The World Health Organization warns dozens of developing countries receiving vaccines through the COVAX Program, including many in Africa, are now running out of stock and its regional director for Africa says many countries have used only half of the vaccines they have received due to logistical and funding issues. And, of course, vaccine hesitancy.
Joining me now from Atlanta is Dr. Carlos Del Rio. He is an Executive Associate Dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System. Thanks so much. It is good to see you again. And, yes, we're still at this, still talking about the fact that although so many of us have vaccines now, the majority of the world does not. I mean, the W.H.O. has been complaining about this for months. Its Director General being really blunt and saying, look, we are failing at this. What is at stake here for the world if we don't get our act together, so to speak?
CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: A lot is at stake for the world. I mean, as long as there's ongoing transmission and we have major outbreaks happening not only in India, but in Latin America, many Latin American countries are having major outbreaks happening. When there's outbreaks of this virus, when there's transmission, there's the opportunity to produce new mutants, new variants. And those variants will then come and affect us in this country in the U.S. So in the best interest of the U.S. and the best interests of the world, to end this pandemic, we have to really scale up vaccination globally.
NEWTON: And to your point about variants, you know, the Delta variant is the one that everyone's talking about now. And, of course, it's spreading quickly. But it's worth noting, right, that if it's not this variant, it will be another one. So as we're now trying to actually outrun these variants, do you think we have a chance about running this thing, about vaccinating this virus? And when do you think that might happen? You know, before the projection said, OK, end of 2022, now most people don't believe it'll happen until 2023.
DEL RIO: Well, I think it's really going to depend on how much we can organize our resources, how much we can create vaccines and produce vaccines and get them to the people that need them the most in low and middle income countries. I think it really is going to require a very coordinating global strategy to get the vaccines in the right places at the right time and ahead of the virus. And I think the issue here is how do you get -- stay ahead of the virus, right, and trying to play catch up every time?
NEWTON: You know, the wealthiest nations just met at the G7. They said they were going to donate all of these vaccines. But you make such a good point, right? I mean, there has to be a concerted effort at this not, just flinging vaccines. And when countries, even countries like Japan are struggling to get the personnel they need to administer these vaccines, do you think it'll take more than doses?
You really have to bolster public health in a lot of these countries. How do you even do that?
DEL RIO: Well, you know, it's interesting in some countries, I'm thinking about countries in Africa, for example, where PEPFAR has really built public health infrastructure. You can actually use resources. You can actually use the facilities that PEPFAR has to do exactly that. But in many other countries, you don't have that. In Latin America, you don't have that. So you really have to rely on (INAUDIBLE) public health and public health in those countries has to be really scaled up and has to be supportive. And we have to get people to the most remote places of the countries to do this.
But we have done it before. Latin America has been really a champion in childhood immunizations. So, I'm convinced we can do it. It just requires -- at the end of the day, it requires political will. If the politicians want it done, it will happen.
NEWTON: And you don't think the W.H.O. is going to be able to motivate this on their own? DEL RIO: Well, I think -- again, it requires -- I'm surprised, you
know. Recently, there was a U.N. High Level meeting on HIV/AIDS, we got to have a U.N. high level meeting on COVID where really is beyond the G7, where really all the countries pledged to put all their resources to make this happen. I do think that political will at the highest level, call it, you know, Prime Minister Modi called the president Bolsonaro in Brazil, but President, you know, Lopez Obrador in Mexico, if the president of the country says we're going to make this happen, it will happen.
But we need the high level political commitment of presidents and political leaders at low and middle income countries. And then we need the political will of the presidents and leaders in high income countries, and we can make it happen.
NEWTON: Yes, and I'm glad to hear you say that, although it just still seems like a Herculean effort at this point. Before I let you go, I want to ask you about vaccines, vis-a-vis the variants, you know. We've had lots of countries use different vaccines, because not all of them could get mRNA vaccines. In fact, even places like Europe still don't have enough of those doses. So because we are seeing less efficacy with whether it's AstraZeneca, or the Chinese vaccines, let's say, against the variants, does it concern you? Do you think that we should start to really be truthful about saying the fact that at times, not all vaccines are created equal here?
DEL RIO: Well, you know, I mean, at some point in time, myself and many others were saying the best vaccine is the one you can get, right? But at this point in time, we need to start really -- we need the data to say which vaccines are better against which variants and how do you be more targeted in the approach to vaccines.
At this point in time, we haven't been targeted. I think we need more data. I still think that any vaccine is better than no vaccines. But among the vaccines, there are clearly vaccines that do a much better job against variant than others. And I think we need that data. And we need to be very blunt and very transparent about it. Because otherwise, it may be that we just get people confused.
At the end of the day, you may need to do Bahrain, for example, all their population received the Sinovac vaccine in Bahrain has made the decision to give everybody a dose of mRNA vaccine because we have shown very clearly boosting of the immune response when doing that. We need to have that data in order to proceed appropriately.
NEWTON: Yes, and again, this is just all still emerging, especially as the new variants emerge. I really want to thank you for weighing in on this. Appreciate it.
DEL RIO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is giving Filipinos two options when it comes to the Coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT (through translator): You choose, get vaccinated or I will have you jailed. I'm telling you, those police jail cells are filthy and foul-smelling. Police are lazy in cleaning. That is where you'll be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: So as you know, he is no stranger to controversy, the President's threat to jail those who don't get vaccinated goes against his health officials, who, of course, have urged that vaccines should be voluntary. Now his Justice Secretary later clarified it's not illegal to refuse a vaccine. But the President spokesperson also suggested Congress could pass such a law. Now the Philippines meantime is battling one of Asia's worst outbreaks averaging more than 6,000 new cases a day with over 1.3 million overall. Officials say more than two million people there, though, are now fully vaccinated.
Still ahead right here on CNN, police arrest of former first lady in Nicaragua, silencing another critic of the current president. We'll have the latest on the political punch.
NEWTON: And welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.
A sweeping wave of arrests continue in Nicaragua. Now the national police have arrested former first lady Maria Fernanda Flores Lanzas. Police say she was being detained at her home on charges of threatening national security.
CNN's Matt Rivers has more on the country's crackdown on opposition leaders.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the political crackdown against dissent by Daniel Ortega and his regime in Nicaragua continues, as we've seen the detention of two more prominent opposition figures in Nicaragua, including former Nicaraguan first lady, Maria Fernanda Flores Lanzas.
She was detained at her home on Monday, as well as prominent sports journalist and frequent Ortega regime critic, Miguel Angel Mendoza Urbina (ph). Both of them were detained under this so-called national security law 1055, that the Ortega regime, according to critics, have been using to essentially criminalize anyone that speaks out against the regime.
And this is the continuation of what we have seen over the past several weeks, with a total of 17 opposition leaders now having been detained in this ongoing crackdown by Daniel Ortega.
Of course, this is garnering a lot of international attention. But some activists are saying that other governments around the world need to do more to speak out against what is happening in Nicaragua.
Human Rights Watch, for example, released a report this week saying the international community needs to do more. The U.N. Security Council needs to get involved, saying as a part of the report, quote, "The gravity and intensification of the Ortega government's brutal crackdown on critics and members of the opposition in recent weeks requires a redoubling of international pressure."
Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.
NEWTON: Spain has pardoned nine Catalan separatist leaders for their roles in Catalonia's failed 2017 bid for independence. Now the prime minister says it's aimed at fostering reconciliation between Spain and the separatist region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today, we are looking at the future with more optimism. Today, with this action, we want to open a new dialogue, a reunion phase, and end once and for all divisions and confrontations.
PERE ARAGONES, CATALAN REGIONAL LEADER (through translator): The decision taken today by the Spanish government is a recognition that the sentences were unjust. This is why we are glad that the colleagues who have been in prison for more than three and a half years have regained their freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now, opinion polls show there is still a long way to go for that reconciliation. Reuters is reporting that about half of Catalonia's population wanted independence, and roughly 60 percent of Spaniards opposed freeing the nine leaders.
Some separatist protesters dismissed the pardons as a farce.
Now the head of Ethiopia's national electoral boards says all opposition parties have reported facing harassment or intimidation on election day. They're counting the votes in many places, while some districts have begun posting preliminary results.
CNN's Larry Madowo is in Addis Ababa with more.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have been here all night, and they just finished counting at this polling station in Addis Ababa, the scene with the ballot boxes and the party agents are signing against the results.
The final results are posted outside polling stations around the country so that the public has a chance to look at which parties have won the elections. The last known elections with the board of Ethiopia says there were
instances because of the logistical challenges. They had to extend voting to Tuesday. It also reported that in isolated incidents as in parts of the country, opposition agents were even intimidated or harassed.
BIRTUKAN MIDEKSA, ELECTORAL CHAIR (through translator): We have received complaints from all parties except the ruling party. We've informed the local administration to take corrective measures. If it's not corrected, if the representative of the party is not able to observe, they should know the process, and the credibility of the result will be jeopardized.
MADOWO: This election did not take place in the northern region of Tigray, where there's a violent conflict ongoing. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, while casting his votes, contradicted aid agencies who say 350,000 people there are in famine conditions.
ABIY AHMED, ETHIOPIA MINISTER: There is no hunger in Tigray. There's a problem Tigray the government is capable of fixing that.
MADOWO: Despite some international concern about the environment around these elections, one major opposition candidate has told CNN it really came down to Ethiopians to decide.
BERHANU NEGA, OPPOSITION LEADER, EZEMA PARTY: I really don't -- don't need the -- the blessing of any western government. Although it is important, if they were here, and if they observe, that would've been, you know, good. But that's why, at the end of the day, it is what we as Ethiopians feel, what we as Ethiopians, who -- who have a lot to lose from an election that is not credible, how we see it.
MADOWO: Ethiopia wants to liberalize its economy and reformist politics. Now, the country is fractured by so much ethnic violence that has led to a lot of death, destruction and displacement, and that will be the priority for whichever government takes over.
Larry Madowo, CNN, Addis Ababa.
NEWTON: Still to come here on CNN, breaking her silence for the first time. We're expecting to hear from Britney Spears and what she thinks about her controversial conservatorship and her family relations.
NEWTON: After more than a decade, pop sensation Britney Spears is expected to break her silence regarding her ongoing conservatorship case.
Now the court appointed her father to be her guardian 13 years ago, putting him in control of her multimillion-dollar fortune after the singer experienced a series of health issues.
[00:40:13] CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas has a look at what we can expect during Wednesday's highly anticipated hearing.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britney Spears isn't shy about sharing with her fans on Instagram. But for the first time, the world may hear from Britney regarding her court- ordered conservatorship in a hearing on Wednesday.
Britney has yet to address the court since her court-ordered attorney filed to suspend her father, Jamie Spears, as the conservator of her $60 million estate last year.
The singer's father has been overseeing her finances since the conservatorship began in 2008, following a series of health issues that played out publicly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened, Britney?
MELAS: The highly-anticipated hearing has fans and reporters clamoring for a seat in the courtroom. Although Spears is expected to appear virtually, the Los Angeles County Superior Court has already issued a press release stating that they are going to have an overflow courtroom.
Everyone is wondering what Britney might say, and conservatorship attorney Lisa MacCarley, who does not work on Britney's case, has been vocal about the court having had appointed Samuel Ingham as her attorney.
LISA MACCARLEY, ATTORNEY: There is no legitimate reason why Britney Spears was deprived of an attorney of her own choice. What I'm hoping that she will say is, "I want to hire an attorney of my own choice to talk about my options." That is something that they have steadfastly refused to allow her to do.
MELAS: Spears' attorney had no comments citing pending litigation. CNN has also reached out to two judges who have issued rulings on this cases over the years. Both declined to comment to CNN.
Members of the Free Britney movement planned to demonstrate outside of the courthouse. They want to "Gimme More" singer released from the conservatorship but they say this is bigger than Britney and want an overhaul of a system that they believe has widespread potential for corruption.
LEANNE SIMMONS, #FREEBRITNEY MOVEMENT: We know that conservatorship abuse is much bigger than just Britney Spears, and that's what this has evolved into. Of course, this movement started, because we're Britney fans, a lot of us.
It has evolved into a global movement now. There are activists and advocates from across the globe, some of whom are not Britney fans who are family members were victims themselves of conservatorship ideas. So this is much bigger than just Britney. MELAS: As for an end in sight, this legal battle is far from over,
with another hearing scheduled for mid-July.
(on camera): It feels like the entire world is watching to see, what will Britney Spears say during the hearing? We have no idea if this hearing is going to end up being closed, because she might talk about some very sensitive subjects that require the judge to actually clear the courtroom.
Also, many people wondering will Britney ever take the stage again to perform? Well, she just posted a video on Instagram the other day, saying that she doesn't know. She's still taking time for herself. So in the meantime, all we can do is sit back, wait and watch.
NEWTON: I want to thank everyone for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. WORLD SPORT starts right after the break.