Salvini Blew It, But Don't Count Him Out Just Yet

It would be a mistake to assume that Italy has seen the last of the controversial 'Captain,' who will have a different kind of influence at the helm of the opposition.

Is Salvini really done for ?
Is Salvini really done for ?
Alberto Mattioli


MILAN — It's still unclear who will emerge as the winner of Italy's latest political crisis. But we do know for sure who lost: Matteo Salvini — the interior minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the far-right League party — who fell in just a few days from omnipotence to irrelevance, from the altar to dust, from the stars to the stables, from everything to nothing.

Suddenly, the Capitano (Captain) is no longer leading the headlines.

It's a situation that brings to mind Genesis 3:19 (memento qui pulvis es et pulverem reverteris — for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return) or Ecclesiastes 1:2 (vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas — Vanity of vanities! All is vanity). Not that today's politicians are well acquainted anymore with Latin, with the exception perhaps of an old school leader like President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.

Perhaps it was hubris, rather than vanity, that precipitated the Captain's fall in a summer where everything seemed possible until suddenly everything slipped away from his hands. A summer during which the Papeete, a beach club in the seaside resort town of Milano Marittima, became a branch of the Viminale, the building that hosts Italy's Interior Ministry, or, even, in some ways, a projection of the Palazzo Venezia, where Benito Mussolini had his office.

A summer spent as a strong man, dictating decrees from the beach (in flip-flops, mind you), mistreating journalists on Facebook live, being omnipresent in the media and omnipotent on social networks. He even talked about wanting "full powers' as he moved to break up his government and called for snap elections. He bullied his Five Star Movement (M5S) ally Luigi Di Maio, while banning boats filled with desperate migrants from entering Italy's ports.

He didn't take it well.

Then another politician played a magic trick and now the M5S is discussing a possible government coalition with the center-left Democratic Party (PD). Even Salvini admitted he made a mistake — "if one considers it based on the logic of the old politics." It was a mistake, no matter how you cut it.

Salvini didn't take his sudden reversal of fortune well. First he disappeared, then he gave his version of the downfall, blaming the powers that be, Europe, the Merkel-Macron duo. "This government was born in Brussels to get rid of that pain in the neck Salvini," he said during one of his countless live appearances on social media.

Naturally, from his perspective, the plot had been long in the making, even if it is not clear why Salvini helped them out by defying Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Yeah, Conte. Not at all the people's lawyer, as Salvini used to refer to him. He is now "the lawyer of the powers-that-be."

The League might also need to reflect on its reckless foreign policy, and pay greater attention to its choice of friends and intermediaries. Perhaps in the future they'll be better off keeping their distance from Putin (so as not to prompt another investigation), and Brazil's right-wing new President Jair Bolsonaro, who isn't making a good impression when it comes to the Amazon, and Boris Johnson, acting like Charles I in the UK, and Donald Trump, of course.

The man has endless energy.

So what now? For starters, we're back to a period of election campaigning, which never really ended, truth be told. The Captain is back to touring various League festivals. Indeed, the man has endless energy. He has already called for "a great day of Italian pride" on Oct. 19, telling supporters to march in Rome. And the Beast, as his social networks propaganda team is known, already has its new targets: They will continue hammering away with their narrative of the people vs the elite, of Italy vs Europe, of ballot boxes vs institutional games.

The prospects are unclear, though. And above all they don't depend just on Salvini and his ability to appeal to the guts of voters. The situation also depends on what the new coalition will be able to do and, more importantly, how long it will last, because if it doesn't last too long, being in the opposition can actually be beneficial.

For now, opinion polls are showing a decline for the League for the first time in a long time. Within the party, many had become accustomed to cushy and prestigious government positions. In order to keep the party together — to build again the myth of the infallible leader after the first (tactical) defeat — the crossing of the desert cannot last too long.

Either way, it's a mistake to assume that Salvini is politically dead. Everything is premature right now. The Governing Salvini is nothing compared to a Fighting Salvini, who will be tougher and more fearless than ever.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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