Old-School Leftists Break with Democratic Party in Italy

Pietro Grasso, the president of the Italian Senate, attends an international conference in Rome, October 5, 2015
Pietro Grasso, the president of the Italian Senate, attends an international conference in Rome, October 5, 2015 (Camera dei deputati)

The likelihood of elections being called soon is escalating tensions in Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party.

  • Senate speaker Pietro Grasso has left the party after criticizing the way it enacted electoral reforms. (By tying them to confidence votes, the government ensured they would pass without amendments.)
  • The Democrats and Progressives — left-wing critics of former prime minister and Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi — applauded Grasso’s move.
  • Former prime minister Massimo D’Alema, now a member of the Democrats and Progressives, said Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni “has become like Renzi.”
  • Four Renzi loyalists — Transportation Minister Graziano Delrio, Sports Minister Luca Lotti, Agricultural Minister Maurizio Martina and Cabinet Secretary Maria Elena Boschi — did not attend a cabinet meeting this week where Ignazio Visco was confirmed to serve another term as governor of the Bank of Italy. Renzi wanted him out. Read more

Rajoy Could Struggle to Implement Direct Rule in Catalonia

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy makes a speech in parliament in Madrid, October 11
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy makes a speech in parliament in Madrid, October 11 (La Moncloa)

Spain is due to revoke Catalonia’s autonomy after the regional parliament voted for independence. But it could struggle to implement direct rule.

Mariano Rajoy’s government is expected to:

  • Order the Catalan government to step down;
  • Curtail the powers of the Catalan parliament;
  • Put Catalan public media under Spanish supervision; and
  • Call regional elections within six months.

The question is if and how he will be able to enforce this. Read more

Independence Tests Catalonia’s Ruling Coalition

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

The prospect of breaking away from Spain has divided the ruling coalition in Catalonia.

Late on Thursday, Business Secretary Santi Vila, a member of President Carles Puigdemont’s center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT), stepped down from the government.

Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia reports that Vila was dismayed by his colleagues’ determination to secede from Spain after telling companies for weeks they had nothing to worry about. Read more

Catalonia’s Far Left Could Hold the Key to Independence

Mayor Ada Colau and members of the Barcelona city government attend a demonstration, October 13
Mayor Ada Colau and members of the Barcelona city government attend a demonstration, October 13 (Ajuntament Barcelona)

Catalonia’s far left could hold the key to independence after the next regional election.

Snap elections are likely in the next few months, whether called by the regional government to preempt the suspension of home rule or by the Spanish government once home rule is suspended

Polls suggest the ruling center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) will trade places with its junior partner, the Republican Left.

But the balance between pro- and anti-independence parties could be unchanged — unless Catalonia in Common (Barcelona mayor Ada Colau’s party) and Podem (the Catalan branch of Podemos) change sides. Read more

How Significant Is Latest Republican Criticism of Trump?

Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee meets with then-Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece in Athens, June 1, 2010
Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee meets with then-Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece in Athens, June 1, 2010 (Greek Prime Minister’s Office)

Senior Republicans have castigated President Donald Trump in the last week, some implicitly, others explicitly.

  • George W. Bush, former president: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. … We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. … We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism — forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. … Our identity as a nation […] is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility.”
  • John McCain, Arizona senator, former presidential candidate and chairman of the Armed Services Committee: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of Earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
  • Bob Corker, Tennessee senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee: “The president has great difficulty with the truth. … I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does. … He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona senator: “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency.” Read more

Posted-Workers Reform a Largely Symbolic Victory for Macron

French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25
French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

French president Emmanuel Macron has convinced other EU countries to rein in employers’ ability to hire low-wage “posted” workers from Eastern Europe.

A majority of countries agreed this week to reform the Posted Workers Directive, which allows companies to temporarily “post” workers to another member state without abiding by its labor laws.

In future, such contracts will be limited to twelve months with an option to extend it for another six months at most. Read more

Rajoy’s Offers Are Too Little, Too Late for Catalans

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a news conference in Madrid, January 26, 2015
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy delivers a news conference in Madrid, January 26, 2015 (La Moncloa)

In my latest op-ed for the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper, I argue that Mariano Rajoy’s strategy of waiting for others to fail or rescue him isn’t working anymore. Read more