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Italy: Mattarella's Risky Move

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?

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This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Italian politician Matteo Salvini has long been one of Italy's most outspoken critics of the EU — just a year ago he called the Union a "den of snakes and jackals." But the plain-spoken firebrand has abruptly changed his tune in recent weeks, joining the national unity government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi. As far European politicians go, Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank, is about as pro-EU as you can get. So what might have prompted Salvini's surprising about-face? And what does it mean for the future of far-right populism in the EU's third-largest country?

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Another stimulus bill is about to pass the Senate. Why won't the minimum wage be going up?

Well, the problem with the minimum wage is it didn't have the 50 votes it needed to overcome the procedural hurdles that prevent the minimum wage when traveling with the stimulus bill. Clearly support for $15 an hour minimum wage in the House of Representatives, but there's probably somewhere between 41 and 45 votes for it in the Senate. There may be a compromise level that emerges later in the year as some Republicans have indicated, they'd be willing to support a lower-level minimum wage increase. But typically, those proposals come along with policies that Democrats find unacceptable, such as an employment verification program for any new hire in the country. Labor unions have been really, really fixated on getting a $15 an hour minimum wage. They may not be up for a compromise. So, we'll see what happens.

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