What We're Watching: Sri Lanka swears in new leader, Bolsonaro spends big, Biden to kiss the ring
Sri Lanka has a new acting president
Gotabaya Rajapaksa finally resigned — by email — on Thursday as president of Sri Lanka, a country rocked by months-long mass protests, economic collapse, and political turmoil over his rule. He fled the country on Tuesday, likely to avoid arrest, and is now in Singapore, but Rajapaksa’s final destination remains unclear. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the sitting PM Rajapaksa appointed interim president before getting out of Dodge, was sworn in as acting president on Friday. Wickremesinghe’s ability to govern, however briefly, is uncertain given that protesters also want him out. Parliament’s process for selecting the new leader now begins, with a vote coming as early as next week. MPs will have to come up with an alternative candidate to serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa's term until 2025, or hold a snap election. Whoever becomes president will then have to pick a prime minister to lead a government that'll need to pass tough economic reforms to secure an IMF bailout, the only way Sri Lanka can salvage its ruined economy. Demonstrators ignored a new curfew to publicly celebrate Rajapaksa’s resignation overnight, and all eyes are on what happens next on the streets of Colombo.
A Bolsonaro bonus?
Brazil’s embattled far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is hoping that a massive new social spending package will boost his chances of being re-elected this fall. The country’s lower house this week approved a bill that would increase welfare payments by 50% and give special bonuses to certain workers, in particular self-employed truckers and taxi drivers. To pass the bill, lawmakers had to scrap a constitutional limit on government spending. Supporters of the bill say it’s necessary to help ordinary Brazilians cope with an inflation rate currently hovering around 12%. Critics say spending this much money will only worsen inflation, and that it’s merely a political ploy to help Bolsonaro, whose polling numbers badly trail those of his archnemesis, leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The first round of the election will be held on Oct. 2.