Italy to hold September elections after PM Draghi resigns
President Sergio Mattarella dissolved the Italian parliament Thursday, triggering early elections which could bring the hard right to power after the country’s warring parties toppled Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Elections will take place on September 25, while Draghi will stay on as head of government until then. Dissolving parliament was always a last resort, Mattarella said. Italy was facing major challenges, however, that could not be put on the backburner while the parties campaigned, he said. There could be no “pauses in the essential interventions to combat the effects of the economic and social crisis and in particular the rise in inflation”.
Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, was parachuted into the premiership in 2021 as Italy wrestled with a pandemic and ailing economy. His downfall comes despite recent polls suggesting most Italians wanted him to stay at the helm until the scheduled general election next May. His supporters had warned a government collapse could worsen social ills in a period of rampant inflation, delay the budget, threaten EU post-pandemic recovery funds and send jittery markets into a tailspin.
Anxious investors were watching closely as the coalition imploded. The European Central Bank yesterday unveiled a tool to correct stress in bond markets for indebted eurozone members, such as Italy. Milan’s stock market dropped 2.0% on opening yesterday and the spread – the difference between 10-year Italian and German treasury bonds – widened to a high as 241 basis points after Draghi’s resignation.
Polls put Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia ahead
Based on current polls, a rightist alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia would comfortably win a snap vote. “No more excuses,” tweeted Meloni, 45, who vociferously led the opposition throughout Draghi’s term and has long called for fresh elections. Fratelli d’Italia, which has neo-fascist roots, is leading in the polls, with 23.9% of voter intentions, according to a survey held three days before Draghi’s resignation. To win a majority it would need the support of Matteo Salvini’s La Lega (polling at 14%) and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (7.4%). Enrico Letta’s Partito Democratico is just behind Fratelli d’Italia, with 22.1%, but may be forced to ally with the troubled Movimento Cinque Stelle (polling at 11.2%), if it is to have a chance at beating the right.
‘Grain deal to be signed today’ – Ankara
News agencies reports Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office saying Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will sign a deal today to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports. Russia and Ukraine are both major global wheat suppliers, but Moscow’s invasion has sent food prices soaring and stoked an international food crisis. The war has stalled Kiev’s exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at Odesa port. Ankara said a general agreement was reached on a UN-led plan during talks in Istanbul last week and that it would now be put in writing by the parties. Neither Moscow nor Kiev would confirm the deal.
BBC ‘let Diana down’
A number of the London national papers lead with the BBC paying damages to Tiggy Legge-Bourke, a former nanny to Princes William and Harry. The Daily Express reports the damages relate to false claims that Legge-Bourke had an affair with Prince Charles and an abortion. A statement read out in court said it was “likely that these false and malicious allegations arose as a result and in the context of BBC Panorama’s efforts to procure an exclusive interview with Diana, Princess of Wales” in 1995. Metro says the damages will be “substantial” and quotes BBC director general Tim Davie saying: “We let [Princess Diana], the Royal Family and our audiences down”. Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, has called on the police to act over the interview, the Daily Mirror reports.
Trump ignored pleas to condemn Capitol riot
Former US President Donald Trump “blazed a path of “lawlessness and corruption” as he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 US election, Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House committee investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol said Thursday. Speaking at the televised prime-time finale of a series of public hearings into the attack, Thompson said there must be “accountability” for what he called an attack on democracy. He said Trump “did everything in his power to overturn an election: he lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath. He tried to destroy our democratic institutions and recklessly blazed a path of lawlessness and corruption”. Thursday’s prime-time hearing was the eighth and final one in this series. Committee members said there would be further hearings in September.
Japan sounds alarm on Russia’s threats to Taiwan
Japan’s defence ministry said Friday it was alarmed at fresh threats from Russia and had growing worries about Taiwan, in an annual report that comes as Tokyo weighs significantly increasing military spending. The document surveys the global security landscape and specific threats to Japan, and says there was concern Russia could “further enhance and deepen relationships with China”.
Europe’s heatwave moves eastwards
The heatwave covering swathes of Europe moved steadily eastward Thursday, forcing countries like Italy, Poland and Slovenia to issue their highest heatwave alerts as firefighters battled wildfires across the continent. Since temperatures in southern Europe began to soar earlier this month, the heatwave has caused hundreds of deaths and sparked wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of hectares of land in countries including Spain, Portugal and France. Britain and France both saw record high temperatures on Tuesday. Greece urged Europe to do more to tackle climate change. In Poland, the authorities issued heat warnings for many parts of the country, with temperatures as high as 36.7OC. In Italy, blazes in Tuscany and Friuli Venezia Giulia continued to rage but did not appear to have spread. New wildfires were spotted in the mountains near Bologna and bordering the A9 highway, north of Milan. Fourteen cities, including Rome and Milan, were placed on the country’s highest heatwave alert Thursday, with the number set to increase to 16 today. A fire that began in northern Italy has spread across the border to Slovenia, damaging an area of over 2,000 hectares. On the Slovenian side, 400 people from three villages had to be evacuated because of the blaze. Wildfires continued to burn in Portugal and Spain.
Biden doing well after he tests positive for COVID
US President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time Thursday morning, the White House said. Biden, 79, has “very mild symptoms”, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Biden is experiencing a runny nose, dry cough and fatigue, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. Biden tweeted that he’s “doing great” and “keeping busy!” The president will work in isolation until he tests negative. Biden is fully vaccinated and received two boosters; his second booster shot was March 30. Because Biden is vaccinated and double boosted, his “risk of serious illness is dramatically lower,” Jha said.
WHO deciding on sounding highest alarm on monkeypox
Monkeypox experts discussed Thursday whether WHO should classify the outbreak as a global health emergency – the highest alarm it can sound. Nearly 15,400 cases have been reported by 71 countries. WHO says 98% per cent of reported cases “are among men who have sex with men”.
Euro 2022: Germany advance to semi-finals
Germany have beaten Austria 2-0 to advance to the semifinals of Euro 2022. They will next face either France or the defending champions, the Netherlands, as they continue their quest for a record-extending ninth title. Germany got a first-half strike from Lina Magull and a late goal from Alexandra Popp to secure the win. Sweden meets Belgium in the third semi-final this evening (kick-off at 9pm). France and the Netherlands meet Saturday.