Global Review – 22nd October

Dare to struggle, dare to win, Xi tells Communist Congress

China’s five-yearly Communist Party Congress wrapped up on Saturday with President Xi Jinping set to emerge from the event as leader for an unprecedented third term. Xi delivered a speech in one of the final events of the week-long gathering telling the the 2,300 party delegates, “Dare to struggle, dare to win, bury your heads and work hard. Be determined to keep forging ahead.” The new Central Committee of around 200 senior Party officials was elected without state media agency Xinhua disclosing a full list of members.

Meloni becomes Italy’s first female Prime Minister

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni was named Italian prime minister Friday, becoming the first woman to head a government in Italy. Her Fratelli d’Italia Eurosceptic and anti-immigration party won the September 25 general election with 26% of the vote last month, compared to eight and nine percent respectively for her allies Forza Italia and the far-right La Lega. Meloni’s appointment is an historic event for the eurozone’s third largest economy and for her party, which has never been in government. The 45-year-old citizen of Rome met President Mattarella yesterday morning for a very brief 10-minute consultation and in the afternoon returned with the list of ministers in hand.

She and her ministers will be sworn in this morning and then she will be off to the first moves that will be on the international front, with the possible meeting with French President Macron in Rome and, next step, a visit to Brussels to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, among others. Despite her Eurosceptic stance, Meloni has been firm about her support for Ukraine, in line with the rest of the European Union and the United States. “I intend to lead a government with a clear and unequivocal foreign policy line,” she has said. “Italy is fully, and with its head held high, part of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance. Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone will not be able to be part of the government, even at the cost of not forming a government,” Meloni had warned.

Shortly after she was named, Meloni appointed Antonio Tajani (Forza Italia) as Foreign Minister and Matteo Salvini to Infrastructure. Both also become deputy prime ministers. Giancarlo Giorgetti, considered one of the more moderate, pro-Europe members of Matteo Salvini’s far-right La Lega, is economy minister. An interesting appointment is that of Fratelli d’Italia’s Nello Musumeci as Minister of the South, the Sea and Southern Policies.

“It is necessary to proceed quickly” to the formation of the new government, “also due to the internal and international conditions that require a government in the fullness of its functions” underlined Mattarella, taking the floor after having conferred the task on Meloni to form the new government. “With the same spirit of collaboration, I extend my best wishes to the new government that tomorrow will begin to carry out its duties,” he concluded. “Congratulations to the new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and to the ministers,” Forza Italia president Silvio Berlusconi wrote on social media. “Good job everyone. We at Forza Italia will make a decisive and qualified contribution: we can finally tackle the problems of the Italians and restart the country.”

But Opposition’s reaction was very harsh, to say the least. “After having listened to the list, names and denominations of the Meloni government, I say even more with conviction opposition, opposition, opposition,” the secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, said in a tweet. “The only news is a woman premier, a historical fact for our country, objectively to be recognised.” The leader of the 5 Star Movement, Giuseppe Conte, was also critical: “Best wishes to Meloni,” he wrote in a post. “The list of ministers confirms, however, some worrying signs. Scattered signals that herald a sharp retreat in the path of recognition and strengthening of civil rights to an uncompromising opposition without discounts, for the good of the country.” Azione d’Italia leader Carlo Calenda was softer: “Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni. Having a female Prime Minister who fought bravely to arrive at Palazzo Chigi on her own is still a great change for Italy. We will be in opposition. But we wish her to be successful for Italy.” Matteo Renzi, leader of  Italia Viva, also congratulated Meloni: “Good work to the Meloni government. We will be in the opposition but congratulations to the first woman who leads an executive in Italy – the first of a long series, we hope. We will be against the government in the vote of confidence, however. Good work to the majority and good work to the two oppositions, both reformist and populist. Long live Italy, long live democracy!”

Boris breaks silence as Rishi remains favourite

The majority of Saturday’s papers lead with the race to become the next Tory leader in Britain. The Sun reports that Boris Johnson has said he is “up for it” as he flew home from his Caribbean holiday to try to “wrestle back” the keys to No10. Last-ditch talks with Rishi Sunak could be held today to avoid a clash for the Tory crown, the paper says. The Guardian says that Boris Johnson was gaining ground last night for an audacious bid to return to Downing Street, despite critics warning he risked plunging the Tories into fresh chaos over the impending parliamentary inquiry into the Partygate scandal. The paper says that Rishi Sunak remains the favourite to win the Tory leadership contest, while Penny Mordaunt also throws her hat into the ring. The Financial Times asks: “Could the Tory turmoil get even worse?” and The Mail reports senior Tories are trying to broker a face-to-face meeting between Johnson and Sunak in a bid to end the “bloodletting” engulfing the party. Meanwhile, the Mirror reveals a petition for a general election, carried out by the paper last night, reached 80,000. The i newspaper reports latest polling suggests Sunak would come closest to beating Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at a general election. According to a poll by Opinium, UK voters would prefer Sunak and Mordaunt over Johnson as the next PM. When asked to choose between Sunak or Johnson, 44% chose Sunak, and 31% chose his former boss.

US, Russian defense ministers hold rare call

Russia’s defence minister held rare telephone talks with his US counterpart Friday after Kremlin proxy officials said they were turning Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson into a “fortress” as Kiev’s forces advance. Details of the conversation, including its duration, between Russia’s Sergei Shoigu and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were scant from official read outs but both sides said the senior officials had discussed Ukraine. “Topical issues of international security – including the situation in Ukraine – were discussed,” Moscow said, with Washington saying: “Secretary Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine”. It was only the second call between the ministers since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 and during the first, last May, Austin had urged Moscow to implement an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine.

Trump subpoenaed in Capitol assault probe

Lawmakers probing the 2021 attack on the US Capitol subpoenaed former president Donald Trump Friday to testify on his involvement in the violence, in a major escalation of its sprawling inquiry. Trump’s long-term ally Steve Bannon, meanwhile, was fined and sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress over his refusal to testify on the matter, although he remains out on bail pending an appeal. Subpoenas from the panel have proved difficult to enforce, with former White House aide Steve Bannon the only target convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply.

24 arrested in Catania anti-child pornography operation

An online anti-child pornography operation carried out by the Catania police yielded 24 suspects for the crimes of possession of juvenile pornographic material. The Judicial Authority has ordered personal and computer searches that have affected the provinces of Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa. During the investigation several thousand audio and video files were seized.

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