Spain Hands Sanchez a Win - Now Can He Govern?
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez scored a clear victory in Spain’s elections yesterday. But he fell just short of what he really wanted.
Beating back a challenge by parties that whipped up nationalist fervor after a separatist crisis over the Catalan region, his Socialists won 3 million votes more than the next political force.
That handed his traditional rival, the conservative People's Party, its worst result in history. It also kept the right-wing Vox, which clinched seats for the first time, from upsetting the political order – a good sign for mainstream politicians before next month's European Parliament elections.
But for all that, Sanchez may only muster perhaps 174 votes in the assembly if he works with his logical coalition partners. A majority is 176.
That means he needs help from either the Catalan separatists or the liberals of Ciudadanos. The former will set a high price for backing. And while the latter looks like a perfect fit with its mix of centrist economic policies, its leader has vowed not to help after a falling out over Catalonia’s independence vote that courts deemed illegal.
As he faces difficult horsetrading over forging a new alliance and the long hard work to heal the wounds of the Catalan crisis, he might be thinking how much trouble he’d have been saved with just two extra seats.
Hot seat | U.S. Attorney General William Barr put his spin on Robert Mueller’s Russia report before the public got to see it. Now, he’ll face lawmakers who will press him to reconcile his findings with the special counsel’s. House and Senate Democrats will get their chance this week to question Barr directly after he gave President Donald Trump grounds to claim “total EXONERATION” from a report that stopped short of that.
Polar opposites | Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both white-haired septuagenarians with decades of experience in Washington. Yet the two front-runners represent opposite ideological poles in a packed field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Sahil Kapur takes a closer look.
Gunboat diplomacy | Two American naval destroyers crossed the Taiwan Strait for the second month in a row, highlighting the U.S.’s strategic rivalry with China. The passage through waters separating Taiwan from China “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a Seventh Fleet spokesman said. China urged the U.S. to “deal with Taiwan-related issues with caution.” Meanwhile, Taiwanese presidential hopeful Terry Gou called for the island to adopt high-tech defense mechanisms.
Bill unpaid | National Security Adviser John Bolton said yesterday that the U.S. did sign a document pledging to pay North Korea’s $2 million demand for detained student Otto Warmbier's medical care in return for his release in 2017, but didn’t follow through. “No money was paid,” Bolton said, in comments that – for the first time – confirmed key elements of a Washington Post report last week.
Slipping behind | Narendra Modi is playing up his record on national security and foreign policy while he campaigns in India's ongoing general election. But during his five years as prime minister, India's long-term geopolitical rival China has continued to pull ahead by outspending on defense and introducing dramatic reforms to its military and diplomatic structures. “It’s impossible to keep pace with China,” one former Indian ambassador told Iain Marlow.
What to Watch
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet western Balkan leaders in Berlin today. They'll probably discuss a proposal backed by the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo – and rejected by Merkel – to redraw the former Yugoslav republics’ borders to mend ties.
- The next round of China-U.S. trade talks get under way in Beijing this week with significant issues still unresolved and Trump still willing to walk away from the negotiating table, according to a senior aide.
- Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, a close Trump ally, is calling for more sanctions on Russia and criticizing presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s statements downplaying the significance of Moscow's interference in the 2016 election.
And finally … Poland's first openly gay politician is vying to pull his country back into the European mainstream in fall elections, and away from the religious nationalism and homophobia that's taken hold under the conservative government. Opinion polls show Robert Biedron's Spring party with 15 percent support among voters, making it a natural partner for a pro-EU coalition that's hoping to unseat the populist ruling Law & Justice Party.
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