Berlusconi Comeback in Italy Looks Like a Long Shot

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30 (EPP)

Silvio Berlusconi is eying a comeback in Italy — again.

The eighty-year old former media tycoon, who was prime minister four times between 1994 and 2011, still leads Forza Italia, the country’s largest conservative opposition party.

But it is only polling around 14 percent support. So many things need to happen to put Il Cavaliere back in power that it looks like a long shot:

  • The European Court of Human Rights needs to overturn Berlusconi’s ban from public office. Elections must be held before May 2018, but Berlusconi can’t run again until 2019 due to a conviction for tax fraud. He is appealing the verdict.
  • The ruling center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which are polling in first and second place, respectively, need to lose popularity.
  • So does the formerly separatist Northern League, which Matteo Salvini is transforming into a national right-wing populist force that is anti-euro and anti-immigration.
  • A new electoral law must have a high-enough threshold to prevent Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano’s center-right Popular Alternative from eating into Berlusconi’s margins — but not so high as to prevent the nationalist Brothers of Italy from winning seats. Berlusconi would need them for a majority. Read more

Complacency May Have Led to Brexit and Trump

View of the Thames in London, England at dawn
View of the Thames in London, England at dawn (Uncoated)

Janan Ganesh wonders in the Financial Times if, rather than economic pain, relatively good times led to victories for Brexit and Donald Trump.

The median Briton, he points out, has no recollection of national crisis: no devaluation, no three-day workweek, no conscript war, none of the floor-to-ceiling greyness of the postwar years, when austerity entailed the rationing of basics and not just tight public-sector pay settlements.

The worst ordeals were an invasion of Iraq conducted by an all-volunteer army and a crash in which unemployment peaked at 8 percent.

To remain vigilant after such a benign experience of history is too much to ask, argues Ganesh. Read more

Don’t Read Too Much into Macron’s Falling Popularity

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6 (World Bank/Ibrahim Ajaja)

There is a bit of schadenfraude on the far left and the right about French president Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating, which has sunk from 64 to 54 percent in one month. See, Marxists and conservatives howl, the Little Napoleon is already disappointing the French.

They’re probably getting ahead of themselves.

The Guardian reports:

Disapproval is strongest among certain demographics — civil servants, pensioners and supporters of the Mouvement démocrate party.

Which is hardly surprising when Macron intends to fire tens of thousands of bureaucrats, has proposed to bring public-sector pensions in line with those in the private sector and lost three ministers of the Democratic Movement to a spending scandal. Read more

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more

Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede

Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015
Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov)

Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.

The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.

She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.

Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more

Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone: Davidson

Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson
Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives)

It is not inequality that bothers Brits, argues Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative Party leader, in the new online magazine UnHerd. It’s injustice.

People expect that the CEO of a corporation will be the highest paid person on the payroll. What they don’t accept is that FTSE 100 bosses are paid 174 times the average worker’s wage in this decade — compared to 13 to 44 times in 1980.

Especially when many of their companies have received either big fraud-related fines or bailouts from the state.

The distinction matters, because it goes to a broader point. Read more

German-Turkish Relations Have Been Going Downhill for Years

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan answer questions from reporters in Ankara, February 2
German chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan answer questions from reporters in Ankara, February 2 (Turkish Presidency)

Germany has urged its citizens not to travel to Turkey and advised companies to scale back their investments in the country.

The dramatic measures follow Turkey’s arrest of a German human-rights activist, Peter Steudtner. But relations between the NATO allies have been going downhill for years.

  • German chancellor Angela Merkel offended her Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in 2005, when she declared her opposition to Turkish membership of the EU.
  • Germany has for years complained about Turkish attempts to influence its three to four million citizens of Turkish descent.
  • Earlier this year, Erdoğan called German officials Nazis when they would not allow his surrogates to campaign for him in Germany.
  • Turkey refused to give German lawmakers access to the Incirlik Air Base, where their troops fighting the Islamic State were based. Germany eventually moved its forces to Jordan.
  • Turkey arrested a German-Turkish journalist, Deniz Yücel, after he had written critical articles about Erdoğan. Yücel is still being held in solitary confinement. Read more