What we’re watching: Italian elections, Chinese anti-corruption campaign, Lebanese bank closure

Italy votes!

Italians go to the polls on Sunday and are expected to elect Italy’s first far-right leader since World War II. Giorgia Meloni, 47, who leads the Brothers of Italy party (which has neo-fascist roots) is set to become Italy’s next prime minister. Polls indicate Brothers will win around a quarter of the vote, while his three-party coalition, comprising Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega party and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is expected to get around 45%. Four years ago Brothers – established in 2012 – garnered just 4% of the vote, but it has recently benefited from the implosion of the left as well as Meloni’s refusal to support the centrist Draghi government, which has collapsed this summer, making it the most formidable opposition. figure (Salvini and Berlusconi supported Draghi). Italy has convoluted voting rules but will vote on 400 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and 200 seats in the Senate – the winning coalition needs a majority in both. Meloni aims to dilute EU power over Italian affairs, though she believes Rome must preserve close ties with Brussels, and she backs EU and NATO efforts to contain Russian aggression . Read this primer to learn more about what Meloni stands for — and doesn’t stand for.

Xi’s war on corruption – and disloyalty

A Chinese court on Thursday sentenced one of Xi Jinping’s former top anti-corruption officials to life in prison for…corruption. Fu Zhenghua, a former police chief and justice minister who led several investigations under Xi’s former anti-corruption czar, pleaded guilty in July to accepting $16.5 million in bribes , presumably in exchange for the commutation of his death sentence. The plot thickens: Fu has been arrested amid a wider crackdown on a ring of dirty former cops led by Sun Lijun, who is awaiting his own sentence for corruption. But as far as the ruling Communist Party is concerned, its most heinous crime has been creating a political faction separate from Xi’s, which is why its members receive heavy penalties. (Juicy snippets of their case have been featured in “Zero Tolerance,” a state-sponsored documentary series that celebrates the success of Xi’s war on corruption.) The timing is also interesting: In about three weeks, the CPC will hold its 20th Party Congress. , where Xi is set to secure an unprecedented third term as general secretary. The party has a penchant for weeding out dirty officials before big appointments, but going after a clique of executives disloyal to Xi sends a clear message: don’t cross the big boss.

Unbanked Lebanon

The Lebanese cannot take a break. They have seen their dollar savings withdrawals strictly limited since the fall of the Lebanese pound in late 2019. And now, two weeks after a woman robbed a bank to withdraw some of her own savings to pay for treatment against his sister’s cancer, inspiring copycat burglaries, the banks simply closed. Citing security concerns, the country’s banking association says all banks will remain closed indefinitely. ATM services in pounds are available, but the closure is expected to make matters worse for the 80% of Lebanese who are already struggling to pay for their daily needs with the weakened currency amid sky-high inflation. This is just the latest twist in Lebanon’s descent into economic collapse, which began three years ago. The government, meanwhile, continues to give the International Monetary Fund the economic reform bypass needed to unlock a $3 billion bailout. One of the conditions is to allow small depositors to access their savings.

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