What We’re Watching: Italian Squabbles, Merkel’s Worries
Italy's Squabbling Leaders – On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threatened to resign unless Five Star and the League, the two parties that form the country's populist governing coalition, stop bickering and start working together. Campa cavallo (fat chance!) as they say. Tensions between the two parties have surfaced in recent weeks as Five Star's popularity wanes and League party leader Matteo Salvini becomes more popular and more aggressive in setting the country's political agenda. The results of last month's European Parliament elections have only accelerated the diverging fortunes of the two parties, leaving many to wonder if Salvini might just make a risky push for a snap election.
Pressure on Angela Merkel's government - More bad news this week for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who governs via an increasingly fragile and unpopular partnership between her Christian Democratic Union and the rival Social Democratic Party. Both parties did poorly in the recent EU Parliament elections. On Sunday, SPD boss Andrea Nahles said she would step down, and on Monday the head of Germany's leading industry association said it had lost faith in Merkel's grand coalition. With pressure mounting on all sides, Merkel can either try to ride it out, risk snap elections, lead a minority government, or seek a new coalition partner altogether before her fourth and final term expires in 2021.
What We're Ignoring: Xi in Russia, Duterte's Gay Bait
Xi in Moscow – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow today for a state visit with Vladimir Putin before heading to St Petersburg, where he'll be a guest of honor at a big Russian investment conference. Russia and China are seeking closer cooperation at a time when both countries have rocky relations with the United States. But while neither of them likes a world where the US is a sole superpower, their own relationship is still limited by mutual suspicions and meager economic ties beyond oil. Beijing's number one trade partner is still the US, after all, while Russia doesn't even make the top ten. Chinese companies will certainly sign Russian deals in the coming days, but at the grand strategic level, we're not sure what precisely Russia can offer Beijing that it doesn't already have.
Duterte's Gay Bait – During a visit to Tokyo last week, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines announced that he had "cured" himself of homosexuality with the help of "beautiful women." You might think this is the kind of comment that would get an elected official in trouble, particularly since its purpose was to insult a political rival he claims is gay and "uncured." But we're confident we can ignore any risk of political fallout. After all, his past claim that God is a "stupid son of a bitch" in a country that's 80 percent Catholic didn't cut into his 81 percent approval rating or prevent his party from increasing the number of congressional seats it holds in last month's elections.