Élisabeth Borne, the prime minister. Their races will be closely watched, as a loss by one or several of them would be seen as a rebuke of Mr. Macron, who has warned that those who are not elected will leave his cabinet.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Silvio Berlusconi Angles for Italy’s Presidency, Bunga Bunga and All

ROME — Early this month, Silvio Berlusconi sat at a dining room table in his mansion with his girlfriend, more than a half-century younger, and an old political ally. As they feasted on a pumpkin souffle and truffle tagliatelle, the 85-year-old Italian former prime minister and billionaire made hours of phone calls, working his way down a list of disaffected lawmakers he hoped to persuade to elect him president of Italy next week.

“‘We are forming the Bunga Bunga party and we want you with us,’” Christian Romaniello, a lawmaker formerly with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, recounted Mr. Berlusconi as saying, referring to the sex-fueled bacchanals that Mr. Berlusconi has deemed merely “elegant dinners.” According to Mr. Romaniello, Mr. Berlusconi then added, “‘But I’ll bring the ladies.’”

The Italian presidency, the country’s head of state, is a seven-year position usually filled by a figure of unimpeachable integrity and sobriety whose influence flows from moral authority. The current holder, Sergio Mattarella, is a quiet statesman whose brother was murdered by the mob. Another contender is Mario Draghi, the prime minister and a titan of European politics who has led the country to a period of unusual stability.

Then there is Mr. Berlusconi, who despite his recent bad health, waxen appearance and weakened political standing, is making an unabashed push to win a career-culminating position that he hopes will wash away decades of stains — his allies say unjustly thrown mud — and rewrite his legacy.

mob links and bribing lawmakers; the tax fraud conviction; the ban from office; the sentence to perform community service in a nursing home; his use of his media empire for political gain; his use of the government to protect his media empire; the wiretapped conversations of his libertine party guests regaling the Caligulan extent of his bunga bunga debaucheries; his close relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who gifted Mr. Berlusconi a large bed; his appraisal of Barack Obama as “young, handsome and sun tanned”; his comparing a German lawmaker to a concentration camp guard; his second wife’s divorcing him for apparently dating an 18-year-old.

It’s an unorthodox résumé.

Mr. Berlusconi’s conflicts of interest, judicial problems and past behavior made him less than an excellent candidate, said Emma Bonino, a veteran Italian politician and civil rights activist who once ran for the office herself. “I don’t think he would give a good image of our country in the world,” she said.

Mr. Berlusconi declined to comment for this article. But he and his team of longtime advisers are selling him as a moderate, pro-European champion of democracy and can-do capitalism. “I think Silvio Berlusconi can be useful to the country,” Mr. Berlusconi, speaking of himself in the third person, said in October.

In usual fashion, he is using all the levers at his disposal to reach the requisite majority of 505 votes in the secret balloting for the presidency among lawmakers that starts on Monday.

read the headline) and published an insert on his qualities (“hero of liberty”). Weeks ago, lawmakers opening their mailboxes found a photograph of Mr. Berlusconi, arms up and bathing in adoration, on the cover of an anthology of his speeches.

the great-grandfather has remained the father figure of the center-right, which now has — if united — the largest bloc of lawmaker electors in Parliament and a strong desire to choose the next president.

But Mr. Berlusconi’s insistence has caused a major headache for Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party, both at work and at home. Mr. Salvini’s girlfriend is the daughter of Denis Verdini, one of Mr. Berlusconi’s closest advisers, who is publicly applying pressure — from house arrest after his conviction in a bankruptcy fraud case — to elect Mr. Berlusconi.

After years of promising Mr. Berlusconi that he would back his candidacy for president, Mr. Salvini sent a stinging message to Mr. Berlusconi this week, saying that, “We must verify if Berlusconi has the numbers before the start of voting next week.” Mr. Salvini indicated that he had somebody else in mind.

Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right leader of Brothers of Italy, the third party in the center-right alliance, spoke on Tuesday of the possibility of Mr. Berlusconi’s stepping aside, prompting speculation that he might drop out.

the cover of Espresso magazine.

For all Mr. Berlusconi’s seeming unsuitability to fill the role of head of state, his allies argue that Italians elected him multiple times, that political considerations motivated the magistrates who hounded him for decades and that he was a self-made and brilliant businessman who built an empire.

But his outsize appetites and self-interested use of power fueled a backlash that seeded and grew the enormous anti-establishment Five Star Movement, co-founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo, who once derided Mr. Berlusconi as a “psychotic dwarf.”

Five Star took power in 2018 as Italy’s leading party, and Mr. Berlusconi’s support dwindled. He took a back seat to the rising nationalists, first Mr. Salvini and then Ms. Meloni, and railed against Five Star as incompetent good-for-nothings and a threat to democracy. He mocked their trademark universal welfare plan as a joke. He called their power structure communist.

Five Star has since imploded and scattered members into a mixed group of lawmakers desperate to avoid new elections that would almost certainly cost them their jobs and pensions. Mr. Berlusconi has explicitly promised to keep the legislature going as president, has called the universal income plan good for the poor and showered gifts on former rivals.

Luigi Di Maio, the Five Star leader who once refused to join any government with Mr. Berlusconi, this Christmas accepted a centuries-old oil painting of Venice from the mogul’s collection, according to a person close to Mr. Di Maio, who declined to comment.

As Mr. Berlusconi worked the phones alongside his girlfriend, who is also a member of Parliament in his political party, he sat next to Vittorio Sgarbi, one of his former ministers and a lawmaker and television personality who is well liked by many Five Star members.

When Mr. Sgarbi called Mr. Romaniello, the former Five Star lawmaker, who was interrupted while making Carnevale masks with his two small children, he jokingly introduced Mr. Berlusconi as “a Grillo-following friend.”

In an interview, Mr. Romaniello said that he was flattered by the call and added that friends contacted by Mr. Berlusconi also respected the former prime minister’s phone banking and “positive charisma.” But Mr. Romaniello said that he still considered himself, politically, “an adversary,” adding that Five Star had been born “as the antithesis of Berlusconi.” A phone call, he said, would not win his vote.

By Tuesday, even Mr. Sgarbi had bailed on Mr. Berlusconi and was urging him to be a kingmaker.

“I don’t think he can do it,” he said in an interview, saying that the duo had only persuaded about 15 lawmakers to back him, far short, even if he had a base of about 450 conservative supporters, to win the election. “It’s useless to try if you don’t have the numbers.”

On Wednesday, as Mr. Berlusconi’s lawyers in Milan successfully argued for a delay in a bribery trial related to his bunga bunga tribulations until after the presidential vote, his team snapped back and vowed that he would persist and, as always, speak for himself.

“I will not disappoint those who have trusted me,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Italy Ponders a New Role for Draghi. Let the Politicking Begin.

The secrecy, and self-interested nature, of the vote makes it ripe for influence peddling. In recent days, opening gambits took the form of government-collapsing ultimatums, with Mr. Berlusconi saying that he would pull his party out of government if Mr. Draghi became president.

Secret negotiations between the nationalist League, led by Matteo Salvini, and the center-left Democratic Party, are already underway, with the aim of avoiding new elections, possibly by keeping Mr. Draghi as prime minister of a government consisting of political leaders rather than technocrats.

Many, though perhaps not Mr. Draghi, are hoping that after sufficient votes fail to materialize for presidential hopefuls in opening ballots, a reluctant Mr. Mattarella, 80, can be persuaded by a broad alliance to serve another term, or at least to stick around for a couple more years and leave a new term early.

In theory, that would allow Mr. Draghi to defer his dream job until after the vital recovery fund programs have been put in place. But a year or two is an eternity in constantly evolving Italian politics.

Mr. Draghi, no political neophyte, has added his own pressure, asking the political parties if it was at all imaginable for a government that splinters on the choice of a president — be it him or anyone else — to “come back together magically” to run the country.

But even Mr. Draghi has not been untarnished by the political sniping. His backers say that he has become a more politically cautious broker between the bickering parties than their firm leader. In his most recent news conference, the prime minister sounded defensive, insisting that he was the one really making decisions. His honeymoon period seems to have ended.

“There is a lot of noise in the system because of this presidential race,” Mr. Colao said, nevertheless acknowledging that political pressure had “on the margins” increased the urgency of getting modernizing projects into the pipeline.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

With Lawmaker’s Killing, U.K. Confronts a New Episode of Terrorism

Mr. Amess was also a vocal supporter of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, or M.E.K., which campaigns for the overthrow of Iran’s government. The group has attracted a bipartisan list of American backers, including John R. Bolton, who served as a national security adviser to President Donald J. Trump, and Howard Dean, a onetime chairman of the Democratic Party.

There was no evidence linking the attack to Mr. Amess’s support for the M.E.K. Though the group was once designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Britain and the European Union, all three removed that designation several years ago.

David Jones, a Conservative member of Parliament and a leader of the British Committee for Iran Freedom, which backs the M.E.K., hailed Mr. Amess as “a champion of human rights and democracy in Iran for more than three decades.”

For residents of Leigh-on-Sea, the senselessness of the attack was difficult to comprehend, let alone accept.

“I just want to know, why?” said Audrey Martin, 66, who was buying groceries as Mr. Johnson and the other leaders arrived to lay flowers. “Why has he done it and why has he chosen to come to Leigh-on-Sea?”

Fidelia McGhee, 48, who lives near the site of the attack, said that Mr. Amess had always championed local causes. While she described herself as a longtime Labour voter, she praised him as a kind, committed politician. She called the attack “the stuff of nightmares” that would leave an indelible mark on the town.

“It is quite tragic,” she said. “I think we’ve lost something we will never get back.”

Mark Landler and Stephen Castle reported from London, and Megan Specia from Leigh-on-Sea, England.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

A Journey Through Merkel’s Germany: Affluent, Anxious and Almost Normal

As Germany heads into an election that will see Angela Merkel step down after 16 years as chancellor, she leaves behind a country profoundly changed — and anxious about changing more.


STUTTGART, Germany — The small silver star at the tip of Aleksandar Djordjevic’s Mercedes shines bright. He polishes it every week.

Mr. Djordjevic makes combustion engines for Daimler, one of Germany’s flagship carmakers. He has a salary of around 60,000 euros (about $70,000), eight weeks of vacation and a guarantee negotiated by the union that he cannot be fired until 2030. He owns a two-story house and that E-class 250 model Mercedes in his driveway.

All of that is why Mr. Djordjevic polishes the star on his car.

“The star is something stable and something strong: It stands for Made in Germany,” he said.

But by 2030 there will be no more combustion engines at Daimler — or people making combustion engines.

parental leave in Catholic Bavaria. The married gay couple raising two children outside Berlin. The woman in a hijab teaching math in a high school near Frankfurt, where most students have German passports but few have German parents.

successive crises and left others unattended, there was change that she led and change that she allowed.

phase out nuclear power in Germany. She ended compulsory military service. She was the first chancellor to assert that Islam “belongs” to Germany. When it came to breaking down her country’s and party’s conservative family values, she was more timid but ultimately did not stand in the way.

Konrad Adenauer anchored Germany in the West. Willy Brandt reached across the Iron Curtain. Helmut Kohl, her onetime mentor, became synonymous with German unity. Gerhard Schröder paved the way for the country’s economic success.

Ms. Merkel’s legacy is less tangible but equally transformative. She changed Germany into a modern society — and a country less defined by its history.

She may be remembered most for her decision to welcome over a million refugees in 2015-16 when most other Western nations rejected them. It was a brief redemptive moment for the country that had committed the Holocaust and turned her into an icon of liberal democracy.

“It was a sort of healing,” said Karin Marré-Harrak, the headmaster of a high school in the multicultural city of Offenbach. “In a way we’ve become a more normal country.”

lingering inequality between East and West three decades after reunification is still evident, even though taxpayers’ money has flowed east and things have gradually improved. With the government planning to phase out coal production by 2038, billions more in funding are promised to help compensate for the job losses.

But as Mike Balzke, a worker at the nearby coal plant in Jänschwalde, put it: “We don’t want money — we want a future.”

Mr. Balzke recalled his optimism when Ms. Merkel first became chancellor. Because she was an easterner and a scientist, he expected her to be an ambassador for the East — and for coal.

Instead, his village lost a quarter of its population during her chancellorship. A promised train line from Forst to Berlin was never built. The post office shut down.

Mr. Balzke, 41, worries that the region will turn into a wasteland.

That anxiety runs deep. And it deepened again with the arrival of refugees in 2015.

was up in arms, but only a decade later, it has become the new normal.

Ms. Merkel never backed same-sex marriage outright, but she allowed lawmakers to vote for it, knowing that it would go through.

Mr. Winkler left the party again in 2019 after Ms. Merkel’s successor as conservative leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, disparaged same-sex marriage. But he acknowledged his debt to the chancellor.

On June 30, 2017, the day of the vote, he wrote her a letter.

“It is a pity that you could not support opening marriage to same-sex couples,” he wrote. “Still, thank you that you ultimately made today’s decision possible.”

Then he invited her to visit his family, “to see for yourself.”

She never replied. But he and his family used to live just around the corner from Ms. Merkel, who never gave up her apartment in central Berlin. They would see her occasionally in the supermarket checkout line.

“There she was with toilet paper in her basket, going shopping like everyone else,” Mr. Winkler’s partner, Roland Mittermayer, recalled. Even after 16 years, they are still trying to figure the chancellor out.

“She is an enigma,” Mr. Winkler said. “She’s a bit like the queen — someone who has been around for a long time, but you never feel you really know her.”

Six hours northwest of Berlin, past endless green fields dotted with wind farms and a 40-minute ferry ride off the North Sea coast, lies Pellworm, a sleepy island where the Backsen family has been farming since 1703.

Two years ago, they took Ms. Merkel’s government to court for abandoning its carbon-dioxide emission targets under the Paris climate accord. They lost, but then tried again, filing a complaint at the constitutional court.

This time they won.

“It’s about freedom,” said Sophie Backsen, 23, who would like to take over her father’s farm one day.

Sophie’s younger brothers, Hannes, 19, and Paul, 21, will vote for the first time on Sunday. Like 42 percent of first-time voters, they will vote for the Greens.

“If you look at how our generation votes, it’s the opposite of what you see in the polls,” Paul said. “The Greens would be running the country.”

Pellworm is flush with the sea level and in parts even below it. Without a dike ringing the coastline, it would flood regularly.

“When you have permanent rain for three weeks, the island fills up like a bath tub inside the dikes,” Hannes said.

The prospect of rising sea levels is an existential threat here. “This is one of the most important elections,” Hannes said. “It’s the last chance really to get it right.”

“If not even a country like Germany can manage this,” he added, “what chance do we stand?”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Youngest U.K. Lawmaker Takes a Break, Citing PTSD

Ms. Whittome, whose father is of Punjabi heritage, has been an outspoken advocate for many causes, from social justice to women’s rights, a role that has sometimes drawn criticism from those on the other end of the political spectrum. After activism during widespread protests against a controversial policing bill earlier this year and the Black Lives Matter protests last year, she detailed a torrent of abuse.

In an interview with the news outlet The Independent last year, she spoke of the hate mail and racist abuse on social media that had become the norm, and of having to report a series of death threats to the police.

The abuse she detailed, particularly on social media, has become typical for many women in Parliament. Female lawmakers, and in particular women of color in Parliament, have long faced abuse, both online and in person, at a disproportionately higher rate than their male counterparts, reports have shown. Before the last general election in 2019, in which Ms. Whittome won her seat, some women chose not to stand in the election, citing the abuse.

Her office is still open and staff are still working while she takes leave.

And while the details behind Ms. Whittome’s trauma were not given, her frank discussion of her mental health struggle also highlights a broader issue, mental health experts said.

David Crepaz-Keay, the head of applied learning at Britain’s Mental Health Foundation, a charity that has been carrying out a nationwide study of the pandemic’s impact on mental health since early last year, said it was also indicative of a shift in public discourse.

“We’ve noticed a huge change in the kind of broader public willingness to engage in talking about mental health, even over the last five years,” he said, pointing to society’s long history associating shame and disgrace with mental illness.

But more recently, public acknowledgment of mental illness — including by other members of the British Parliament and lawmakers elsewhere like Kjell Magne Bondevik, who took a leave of absence as prime minister of Norway in 1998 and spoke openly about his depression — has helped to normalize the struggle.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

She Was Supposed to Become Prime Minister but Was Locked Out of Parliament

A statement issued on Monday evening by the country’s attorney general seemed to bear out that assessment. The official, Savalenoa Mareva Betham Annandale, an ally of Mr. Tuilaepa’s, declared the swearing-in unlawful and said everyone involved was subject to civil and criminal prosecution.

The delays could put Mr. Tuilaepa closer to his goal of a return to the polls.

“A second election would be an absolute farce,” said Patricia O’Brien, an expert on the region at the Australian National University. “You can’t trust any of these officials anymore to run a clean election because Tuilaepa wants a foregone conclusion — which is that he wins.”

For Samoans on either side of the political divide, seeing Ms. Mata’afa, a respected veteran of Samoan politics, locked outside Parliament House was a highly emotional moment, said Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, a scholar and journalist based in Samoa. Feelings ran especially high as people there began to sing historical Samoan protest songs, she said.

“People were singing songs about our Mau movement,” she said, referring to Samoa’s peaceful movement for independence. “One of the leaders of the Mau movement was Fiame’s grandfather. No matter which side you’re on, that is just a very, very emotional thing to witness.”

For the most part, she said, supporters of both parties have remained loyal to their side throughout the process, though some H.R.P.P. voters appeared to be deterred by what seemed to many to be a power grab by Mr. Tuilaepa.

Around the region, governments encouraged Samoan officials to follow the will of the people.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand voiced her support for Samoa’s judiciary. “Here in New Zealand, we have complete faith in Samoa’s institutions, and that includes its judiciary,” she told reporters. “Our call would be to maintain and uphold the rule of law and that democratic outcome.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Nepal’s Parliament Is Dissolved, Deepening a Political Crisis as Covid Rages

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s Parliament was dissolved on Saturday for the second time in five months, deepening a political crisis in the Himalayan nation as it struggles with a devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced the move shortly after midnight, saying that new elections would be held in November. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and various opposition groups have been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to form a government.

Opposition politicians expressed surprise, apparently daunted by the prospect of planning for an election while the coronavirus is wreaking havoc. Nepal, an impoverished nation of 30 million that borders India, has been recording about 7,000 new infections per day, and because testing is limited, experts believe that is a significant undercount.

“We may not be able to organize big rallies because of Covid right now,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, an opposition leader. “But these sorts of unconstitutional and undemocratic acts will be challenged at the court of law again, and we will politically campaign across the country.”

dissolved the lower house in December after disputes within his coalition.

ruled that Mr. Oli had overstepped his powers and ordered Parliament reinstated. That put the prime minister in the uncomfortable position of facing a vote of confidence.

As expected, he lost that vote. But Ms. Bhandari, the president, tasked him with continuing to lead the government as the head of the largest party, with the expectation that he could assemble a majority within 30 days. On Friday, Mr. Oli recommended that she dissolve Parliament to pave the way for new elections.

Opposition lawmakers said they had mustered enough votes by Friday to make one of their number, Sher Bahadur Deuba, the new prime minister, but supporters of Mr. Oli disputed that claim.

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi.

View Source

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Nepal’s Parliament Is Dissolved as Covid-19 Rages

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s Parliament was dissolved on Saturday for the second time in five months, deepening a political crisis in the Himalayan nation as it struggles with a devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced the move shortly after midnight, saying that new elections would be held in November. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and various opposition groups have been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to form a government.

Opposition politicians expressed surprise, apparently daunted by the prospect of planning for an election while the coronavirus is wreaking havoc. Nepal, an impoverished nation of 30 million that borders India, has been recording about 7,000 new infections per day, and because testing is limited, experts believe that is a significant undercount.

“We may not be able to organize big rallies because of Covid right now,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, an opposition leader. “But these sorts of unconstitutional and undemocratic acts will be challenged at the court of law again, and we will politically campaign across the country.”

dissolved the lower house in December after disputes within his coalition.

ruled that Mr. Oli had overstepped his powers and ordered Parliament reinstated. That put the prime minister in the uncomfortable position of facing a vote of confidence.

As expected, he lost that vote. But Ms. Bhandari, the president, tasked him with continuing to lead the government as the head of the largest party, with the expectation that he could assemble a majority within 30 days. On Friday, Mr. Oli recommended that she dissolve Parliament to pave the way for new elections.

Opposition lawmakers said they had mustered enough votes by Friday to make one of their number, Sher Bahadur Deuba, the new prime minister, but supporters of Mr. Oli disputed that claim.

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi.

View Source

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Samoa Is Set to Have Its First Female Leader

While its island neighbors in the Pacific weathered military coups and internal volatility, Samoa long followed a predictable political course, keeping the same leader in power for more than two decades.

But as the country is set to usher in its first female prime minister, that status quo has been dramatically upended. The incoming leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, represents a sharp break from what she describes as a worrying slide away from the rule of law, and she has vowed to scrap a major infrastructure project backed by China, her country’s largest creditor.

And her ascension itself, after a dizzying seven-week period of uncertainty and intrigue that followed the April 9 election, has sent a rare charge through Samoan politics.

First, there was a dead heat at the polls. Ms. Mata’afa’s upstart party won as many seats in Parliament as the one led by the swaggering prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. An independent candidate took the remaining seat, making him a kingmaker.

American Samoa — is more than four decades in the making. Ms. Mata’afa, 64, a high chief who holds the title fiame, was propelled into political leadership after her father, the country’s first prime minister, died when she was 18. Not long after, she became the matai, or head of her family — an unusually early rise.

legislation that threatened to change the structure of the Samoan judiciary.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision to make,” Ms. Mata’afa said. “What really led me to make the decision to step away was the dismantling of essentially the rule of law.”

“Because of that huge majority that the H.R.P.P. had,” she added, “it became a lot more rampant, even the internal checks weren’t there — I was getting to feel a bit like the lone voice. If you can’t do it from the inside, you have to step outside.”

She became the leader of a new opposition party, known as FAST, which drew a number of other H.R.P.P. defectors.

told local news media. “They should go to a church and pray instead of protesting in front of the courthouse.”

Ms. Mata’afa, for her part, said she just wanted to get on with the job.

“It’s a free world; he can talk about anything he likes,” she said. “I just like to spend my energy talking about things that need to be addressed.”

View Source