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Italy Trades One Bizarre Government for Another

Italy Trades One Bizarre Government for Another

Politics often makes for strange bedfellows, but rarely have we seen a sleepover as peculiar as what happened in Italy this week. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) and the mainstream center-left Democratic Party (PD) have agreed to form a governing coalition. If they can get parliament to support their cabinet choices, it would end the recent uncertainty around who, exactly, is running the third largest economy in the eurozone. But will the new government be any more stable or functional than the last?


The backstory: Three weeks ago, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini pulled his populist rightwing Lega party out of a coalition government with M5S. Their coalition had been a bizarre and fragile alliance from the start, a tie-up of two populist parties with vastly different ideas of how to govern. By ditching that coalition earlier this month, Salvini — no stranger to unabashed risk taking — hoped to capitalize on his high approval ratings by triggering snap elections that he thought he could win outright. His plan has backfired badly – for now.

Some hope for the eurozone: After 14-months of feuding between the Lega-M5S alliance and Brussels over Rome's ballooning deficit (the country's debt to GDP ratio is expected to rise to 135% by 2020) EU leaders may welcome this new government. After all, the mainstream PD is likely to temper M5S's spendthrift populist instincts.

How tenable is the new coalition? Until just a few days ago, M5S and PD were sworn political nemeses. Now they will run Italy together. But if the only glue that holds them together is their mutual disdain for Salvini, it may quickly become difficult to govern. In principle their coalition could last until 2023, but fissures are likely to open well before that.

What's next for Salvini? His Lega party is still the most popular party in Italy, a fact that he will make much of as an opposition leader, railing against the government. And being out of power will enable him to avoid the taint of the upcoming fiscal negotiations, while also positioning himself to capitalize on any missteps or crackups in the bizarre new coalition.

Takeaway: Italy is going from one unwieldy and politically-unnatural coalition government to another. Will this enemy-of-my-enemy government be able to deliver, or will it fail in a way that elevates their enemy after all? Watch this space!

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As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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