India will receive medical aid to combat the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the world. Italy’s Mario Draghi will present the post-pandemic recovery plan. China will allow inbound travelers from the US to enter if they are vaccinated. A general strike is taking place in Colombia.
Meanwhile, Japan’s PM received an electoral setback in three national by-elections, Bulgaria might go to snap elections, Brazil's Senate will investigate the president's handling of the pandemic, and in Chad the transitional military council is ready to consolidate its power.
Chart of the Week
The climate issue has become politically important across both advanced and developing economies. However, recent survey data show that people are more concerned about it in some countries than in others. The co-hosts of the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP26), the UK and Italy, show the highest support (81%) for considering climate change a global emergency. This figure is lower in the US (65%) and in most developing economies, such as Brazil (64%), India (59%) or Argentina (58%). In the age of political polarization, climate change and environmental policies are also divisive issues within many countries. In fact, political ideology is a good predictor of people’s views on these issues. In most countries, left-wing voters tend to perceive climate change as a very serious problem more often than right-wing voters. This is particularly striking in the US, where 86% of left-wing voters believe that climate change is a very serious problem while only 22% of right-wing voters believe so.
What to Watch
Assistance, including oxygen manufacturing equipment and medical ventilators from around the globe is expected to pour into India. The country will embark on its third round of vaccinating everyone over 18 from 1 May, but there are serious shortages of vaccines. Meanwhile, the results of the local elections in five states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala – will be announced on 2 May. If the result is in favor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it will use this outcome to gloss over its mistakes in handling the recent rise in infections.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi will present Italy’s post-pandemic recovery plan to parliament before sending it to Brussels. The EUR 221.5bn plan has been widely portrayed as the last chance to save Italy’s economy, if not Europe’s. But after 20 years of economic stagnation, it is hard to see how EUR 221.5bn spread over a period of six years can turn Italy around. Meanwhile, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio will be between 160-170% by the end of 2021.
The government will allow inbound travelers from the US to enter the country if they have received a US-made vaccine, the Chinese embassy in the US announced. The announcement marks a shift away from vaccine nationalism, after other embassies had granted expedited visa procedures for those who had received Chinese-made vaccines.
A general strike has been called for 28 April in response to the government’s controversial tax reform initiative unveiled earlier this month. Teaching unions are also demanding priority Covid-19 vaccinations. While the leftist presidential aspirant Gustavo Petro would like to re-ignite the November 2019 protest movement, the worsening health crisis could reduce turnout and limit the strike’s impact. The tax reform in its original version is anyway virtually dead given widespread opposition in Congress, where parties including the likes of Radical Change (CR), whose votes the government needs, have rejected the bill. The question now is whether the government is forced to cook up an entirely new reform and what, if anything, can be rescued from the original USD 6.4bn package.
On the Horizon
Candidates backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost all three national by-elections held on Sunday, 25 April. While not unexpected, the defeats are a significant setback for the prime minister, who was already facing questions about his ability to lead the party into a general election this year. Suga's decision to introduce a third state of emergency could further erode confidence in his government. While Suga is not in immediate political danger, calls from within the LDP for the prime minister to not seek a new term as party leader when his term ends in September could grow louder in the coming months.
The There Are Such People (ITN) party has decided not to form a government. This significantly heightens the probability of a snap general election in the summer. On 26 April, ITN leader Slavi Trifonov announced that his party will return the mandate to the president as it cannot form a stable majority government. As per the constitution, President Rumen Radev can now decide which parliamentary group will have the final chance to form a government. However, the fragmented composition of parliament and long-standing political rivalries make the early election scenario more likely.
The much-awaited Senate parliamentary inquiry committee (CPI) on the Covid-19 pandemic will start on 27 April. The work will be led by two independent senators: Omar Aziz from the Social Democratic Party (PSD) as Chairman and Renan Calheiros from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (MDB) as rapporteur. Altogether the CPI has 7 out of 11 members, including Aziz and Calheiros, who have been very critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic. The government’s focus will be to shield President Bolsonaro while supporting the former health minister Eduardo Pazzuelo, who will have great difficulty defending his ten-month tenure. House Speaker Arthur Lira should intensify his push for an administrative reform, but the CPI should override that and other priorities for the coming weeks.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
The transitional military council is set to consolidate its power due to backing from France and regional countries. During the funeral of Idriss Deby on 23 April, French President Emmanuel Macron, while calling for a quick transition, reassured Deby’s son Mahamat, the new interim head of state, of France’s support against its enemies. This was echoed by heads of states and governments from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Such reassurances will likely encourage the military junta to continue the fight against the Front for Change and Concord in Chad rebel group, rather than heeding the group’s call for a ceasefire.