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
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
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.
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
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
Considering pardons for himself and his family, calling on soldiers to support his political agenda and using a scout jamboree to trash his opponents — Donald Trump looks more like the head of a banana republic, as Phillip Carter puts it, than the president of the United States.
This weekend, Trump urged sailors attending the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford to discard centuries of military ethics as well as the armed forces’ own rules to lobby their congressmen and senators to approve his health and spending plans.
It wasn’t Trump’s first breach of republican norms and it wouldn’t be his last. Read more
Kushner Had “Hardly Any” Contacts with Russians. Except for These
American president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, Jared Kushner, claims he had “hardly any” contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.
Except for these:
One (brief) meeting with Sergei Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, in April.
And maybe two phone calls with Kislyak in the months thereafter, as Reuters has reported. Kushner is “skeptical” the calls took place.
Definitively a meeting with various Russian officials, including the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, that was also attended by Donald Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and his oldest son. Read more
Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone: Davidson
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