SHORING UP THE CENTRE
Italian Senate considers key electoral law
Today, Italy’s Senate will meet for the first time since the lower house passed the “Rosatellum” electoral reform law. It will debate and vote on the legislation in the coming days.
The changes are significant as they allow parties to form coalitions prior to elections, ostensibly disadvantaging the populist Five Star Movement, which publicly refuses to enter into coalitions. The party estimates it could lose as many as 50 seats as a result of the new law.
Although the ruling coalition led by the centre-left Democratic Party lacks a majority in the Senate, the law has been endorsed by the centre-right Forza Italia and right-wing Northern League, boosting the chances of passage.
However, Rosatellum is unlikely to resolve Italy’s electoral quagmire. Polls show the vote for the upcoming election—expected in March—split about evenly between the Democratic Party, the Five Star Movement and a Forza Italia-Northern League coalition. If the polls hold, no party will be able to easily form a ruling coalition, condemning the Eurozone’s third-largest economy to continued political uncertainty and instability.
MAY’S INFLATION NATION
Rising inflation to heap pressure on Britain’s government
Consumer spending figures due out today are expected to reflect a continued upward trend in inflation.
July and August data showed consumer prices rose by 2.6% and 2.9% respectively—the highest since 2012. Inflationary pressures have been mounting since the EU referendum result in 2016 collapsed the value of the British pound, resulting in more expensive imports.
Indeed, today’s report could see inflation rise above 3%, well above the Bank of England’s 2% target. Last month, Governor Mark Carney said that an interest rate hike is on its way “in the coming months”. Rates currently sit at 0.25%; lobby groups want no change for now.
Unless wages rise in line with price rises, PM Theresa May’s minority government will likely face increasing public pressure to deal with the wage squeeze. To add insult to injury, an impending interest rate hike will increase mortgage repayments, directly affecting May’s base: middle-class voters.
Jeremy Corbyn is likely to exploit any public ill-will and tout his party’s wage-friendly policies, including a ten-pound living wage.
YOUNG AND RESTLESS
UN to discuss ongoing conflict in six-year-old South Sudan
Today the United Nations Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on South Sudan’s four-year-long civil war.
The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced almost a third of South Sudan’s 12 million residents. Experts warn the country is on the cusp of genocide, with mounting evidence of atrocities committed by President Salva Kiir’s ethnically Dinka forces against the ethnic Nuers that form the bulk of rebel groups.
Last month the US Treasury Department sanctioned a trio of generals and government officials accused of profiting off of the civil war, supplementing existing UN sanctions against the country. USAID administrator Mark Green also threatened to reduce the $730 million in aid the country receives from the US.
With international pressure against Kiir mounting, western countries may well heed the calls of American UN ambassador Nikki Haley to tighten sanctions and institute an arms embargo. But even if the measures impoverish South Sudanese leaders, they will do little to stem Africa’s bloodiest ongoing conflict.
New charges against Michel Temer, Nigeria’s secessionists on trial
A commission in Brazil’s lower house will debate new corruption charges against President Michel Temer. Later this month, it’s expected that all 513 lawmakers will vote on whether to send the corruption investigation to the Supreme Court. A similar vote failed in August after Temer called on the support of fellow lawmakers.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a group calling for secession from Nigeria, is due to face court in Abuja on treason charges. A group of states in Nigeria’s Eastern Region—known commonly as the Niger Delta—briefly seceded from the country in 1967 but were brought under central government control three years later. Tensions continue to this day; clashes with security forces are frequent and reports of human rights abuses have re-emerged in the past year as Nigeria clamps down on secessionists.
A bruising fourth round of NAFTA talks concludes today. Recent ‘America First’ proposals from the Trump administration have renewed fears of the collapse of the free trade agreement.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will visit the White House. Defence and economic cooperation will top the agenda. Mr Tsipras will likely seek to take advantage of a widening rift between the US and Turkey—Greece’s historical adversary.