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Welcome to Tuesday, where Rishi Sunak officially becomes the new British Prime Minister, an Israeli raid leaves at least six dead in the occupied West Bank and WhatsApp is back online after a global outage. Meanwhile, Chinese-language media The Initium’s You Gao reports on how the rise in cyber fraud in Cambodia is linked to China.
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Giorgia Meloni tries to break Italian tradition — and forget Liz Truss
Meloni serving her full five-year term will be a minor miracle in the famously fickle world of Italian politics, whose political instability the UK now appears ready to outdo.
The timing caught Europe’s attention: Exactly one day after Liz Truss resigned to become the shortest-serving British prime minister in history, another conservative leader, Giorgia Meloni, announced the formation of her government to become Italy’s first-ever woman prime minister.
The comparison is notable less for their shared gender or ideology than for the very question of political staying power. With Truss’ successor set to be the UK’s fifth prime minister in six years, British weekly The Economist’s cover quipped: “Welcome to Britaly.”
Yes, for decades, the European model of political instability has been Italy.
Meloni is well aware of the history, and has made it clear that she is ready to leave this unpleasant Italian tradition behind (and to the Brits!?). Her center-right government is the first since 2008 that is supported by a relatively coherent political majority, with the possibility to put to an end a series of fragile governments based on contradictory post-electoral agreements.
Headlines inside and outside Italy have been focused on Meloni’s right-wing agenda, but she knows that any measure, whether revisiting Italy’s abortion law or cracking down on immigration, depends on her ability to keep her coalition together. And it won’t be easy.
The three parties that make up the coalition (her own Fratelli d’Italia, Matteo Salvini’s Lega, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia) are all indispensable for the government’s existence. And while sharing a basic conservative viewpoint, each one of them has a different history, different constituency, and different world views. It’s noteworthy that they belong to three distinct political groups in the European Parliament.
Indeed, it may be foreign policy where the biggest rifts lie, particularly between the pro-Europe strain of Forza Italia and those inside Lega who’ve called for “Italexit.” The coalition also contains both strongly pro-NATO-and-Ukraine forces, and friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A rift that emerged starkly in the days leading up to the formation of the government, when Italian media published leaked audios in which Berlusconi was telling his party’s newly elected lawmakers that he had been exchanging “very sweet letters” and bottles of booze with Putin and blamed Ukrainian President Zelensky for provoking the war. Meloni wasted no time in responding: “Italy is firmly part of Europe and NATO. Those who do not agree with this cornerstone will not be part of the government, at the cost of giving up the government.”
It was just one of many mini crises bound to arise, but La Stampa columnist Lucia Annunziata notes that Meloni’s government may be well-positioned to last — in part because Europe itself is so fragile.
“Europe is not on the verge of a general crisis, but it’s a situation of criss-crossing instabilities,” writes Annunziata. “The last thing the EU wants to have is government crises in countries that are central to its equilibrium. Meloni can take advantage of these weaknesses.”
The composition of Meloni’s cabinet reflects the need for balance, both domestically and abroad.
For the “reassuring” face to the world, the new prime minister chose as foreign minister Forza Italia’s Antonio Tajani, well-known and respected outside of Italy for serving as president of the European Parliament.
Lega’s Giancarlo Giorgetti, Salvini’s moderate alter ego who was among the most loyal supporters to the outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, will serve as finance minister.
Finally, Fratelli d’Italia’s Raffaele Fitto, formerly a respected member of the European People’s Party before moving to the Conservative group, of which he still represents the more moderate wing, will be in charge of European Affairs and the Recovery Plan.
Here, continuity with the previous government will be crucial, as the nearly 150 billion euros still to come from Brussels are contingent on complying with the plan agreed upon last year between Draghi and the European Commission.
But Meloni knows that her party arrived with more votes than any other in the Sept. 25 election on the wave of a demand for discontinuity. And that is represented in her governing coalition by a second face, the more radical figures put in charge of the issues that right-wing voters are traditionally most attached to.
The most striking example: the new “minister of family, births and equal opportunities” will be a staunch pro-life and anti-surrogacy activist. Which does not necessarily mean that abortion rights are in danger in Italy — both the new minister, Eugenia Roccella, and Giorgia Meloni have said they do not want to touch the law — but the nomination alone sends a clear message to the most conservative segments of the population.
Another highly charged issue is migration. As the new minister of interior, Meloni chose Matteo Piantedosi, who was Matteo Salvini’s right-hand man when the leader of the Lega was himself in that position shutting down ports to NGO ships carrying migrants and reducing protection for refugees. For his part, Salvini will have to settle for the ministry of infrastructure and transport, which still gives him a say in the management of the coast guard and the ports.
For the rest, a mixture of technocrats, veterans of the last Berlusconi government of 2008, and loyalists of Meloni herself. It’s a mixture that, combined with the absence of a competitive opposition, has in itself all the ingredients to last five years. But for any Italian prime minister (like their British counterparts now!), five years can seem like an eternity.
— Paolo Valenti
• Ukraine invites UN inspectors back amid “dirty bomb” claims: Ukraine has invited inspectors from UN's nuclear watchdog IAEA to return to two sites in Ukraine which Russia claims are being used by Kyiv to prepare a “dirty bomb” containing radioactive material. Ukrainian and Western officials have warned that Russia’s warnings may be used as a pretext to launch its own attack.
• New UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets with King Charles:Rishi Sunak has won the contest for Conservative party leader and is set to become the new British prime minister today. Sunak has met with King Charles at Buckingham Palace, where he promised to form a government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”
• Six Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in West Bank: At least six Palestinians were killed and 21 wounded on Tuesday after Israeli forces raided several areas in Palestine’s occupied West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he is establishing “urgent contacts in order to stop this aggression against our people,” as the Palestinian Red Crescent reported that the Israeli army prevented its medical crews from entering to evacuate the injured.
• Air raids in Myanmar: Reports have arrived of dozens of people, including civilians, killed in an air raid by Myanmar’s military on Sunday during an event held by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a prominent ethnic rebel group. A KIA spokesperson, via The Associated Press, said the death toll was more than 60 people, with about 100 wounded in the attack.
• St Louis school shooting: At least two people were killed in a shooting at a St. Louis high school on Monday, after a former student breached the building and opened fire on students and staff. The gunman was later killed during a shoot-out with police.
• Investigative Pakistani journalist killed in Kenya: Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif was shot dead in Nairobi on Tuesday when police opened fire on the vehicle he was traveling in. A senior police officer said that the shooting was being treated as a case of mistaken identity, as police were searching for car thieves at the time of the shooting.• WhatsApp outage: WhatsApp, the message app owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, suffered a global outage on Tuesday, leaving its almost 2 billion users unable to send or receive messages. 😱
UK freesheet newspaper Metro is inspired by the Beatles as it announces Rishi Sunak’s arrival as the country’s new prime minister, after he won the Tory leadership contest. The former chancellor will be the UK’s first British Asian leader — and at 42 years old, the youngest in at least two centuries.
A bout of mild weather, together with ample amounts of fuel in storage, have eased fears of energy shortages this winter and — for the first time since Russia cut supplies this summer — driven European gas prices under €100 per megawatt hour.
How Cambodia became the hub of Asia's online fraud racket
When China cracked down on cyber crime, many involved in the industry moved to Cambodia. The Southeast Asian country has since become synonymous with online scams and forced labor. But the Cambodian government isn't just turning a blind eye — it is actively benefiting, reports You Gao in Chinese-language media The Initium.
🇰🇭 Cambodia has been making headlines this year for all the wrong reasons: a rising Asian leader in "internet fraud," "forced labor" and "human trafficking." But why, in particular, has Cambodia become a hub for online scams? The answers begin with an unlikely source — land. There is a joke familiar to many Cambodians: only generals with two stars or more can own land in Sihanoukville, a popular beachside destination in the south of the country. That land eventually changes hands and ends up belonging to Chinese investors, who turn it into hotels, casinos and, eventually now: cyber fraud activities.
🇨🇳🎰 The Belt and Road Initiative has not only brought Chinese capital to Cambodia, but also unsavory industries such as prostitution, gambling and drugs. Although naturally not planned developments under the initiative, they have attracted countless Chinese investors and speculators who have taken advantage of the opportunity to head overseas. In 2019, there were 91 casinos with legal licenses in Sihanoukville, most run by Chinese. In addition, clubs in the city offer sex and drug services with the help of Cambodian officials.
💸 Many believe that Cambodia's cyber fraud industry has evolved out of the legitimate gambling industry. Problems mushroomed after the 2019 "818 Gambling Ban," which required online gambling companies to leave Cambodia. The real estate investments, casinos, clubs, supermarkets and restaurants that grew up around the industry were all devastated, leaving countless investors broke and workers in Sihanoukville out of a job. The beach town’s economy came to a standstill overnight. This was the beginning of Sihanoukville's descent into a Wild West.
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“Since we won the honor of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has been subjected to an unprecedented campaign that no host country has faced.”
— Less than a month before the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani slammed the international media and political treatment of the 22nd edition of the competition. The Gulf state leader pointed out "an amount of ferocity that made many wonder, unfortunately, about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign." Migrant workers’ exploitation, air-conditioned stadiums, global logistics and other issues have raised concerns about the respect of human rights and the environment. Many capital cities like Paris and Berlin, as well as sports media, have expressed their intention to boycott the event.
📸PHOTO DU JOUR
Palestinian security forces after an Israeli military raid that killed at least six people and wounded dozens in the Old City of Nablus in Palestine’s occupied West Bank.
✍️ Newsletter by Sophia Constantino, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Laure Gautherin and Bertrand Hauger
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