Italy: Mattarella's Risky Move

Well, Italy was all set to become the first Western European country led by an all-populist coalition, but the country’s president, Sergio Mattarella (pictured above), put a stop to it. On Sunday, he used his constitutional authority to veto the government proposed by the right wing Lega and anti-establishment Five Star Movement. His reason? Lega and Five Star had nominated a finance minister, Paolo Savona, with a long track record of calling for Italy to leave the eurozone.

Mattarella saw Savona’s inclusion in the government as a trick meant to put a potentially ruinous eurozone exit on the agenda, even after an electoral campaign in which both parties had backed away from that idea in order to win more centrist votes. But for Lega and Five Star, Mattarella’s move showed that the establishment would cynically use any technicality possible to keep outsiders from running Italy.

Now the country — which has gone without a government for 86 days, a postwar record — may see fresh elections in which the polarizing appeal of the Lega and its center-right partners will likely grow. For all his anger today, Lega party boss Matteo Salvini may be in an even stronger position in six months.

All of which poses a bigger question: If you’re the “establishment” is it better to

a) block populist upstarts from forming a government, but, in doing so, risk inflaming the passions that make them popular in the first place? or

b) allow inexperienced leaders to take office in the hope that they discredit themselves, even if that risks hurling the country (and even Europe) into economic chaos?

In the end it wasn't even close. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party won a stunning victory in the UK's snap elections yesterday, taking at least 364 seats out of 650, delivering the Tories their largest majority since 1987.

Johnson read the public mood correctly. After three years of anguish and political uncertainty over the terms of the UK's exit from the European Union, he ran on a simple platform: "Get Brexit Done." In a typically raffish late-campaign move, he even drove a bulldozer through a fake wall of "deadlock." Despite lingering questions about his honesty and his character, Johnson's party gained at least 49 seats (one seat still hasn't been declared yet).

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Once a widely heralded human rights champion who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for advancing democracy in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has now taken up a different cause: defending her country from accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

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