Morning Brief

Indian Exit Polls Predict Modi Win

India’s Narendra Modi appears set for second term, Austria’s ruling coalition collapses ahead of the EU elections, and what to watch in the world this week.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during an election rally on April 16.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during an election rally on April 16. STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Exit Polls Project a Win for Modi

After six weeks of voting, Indian exit polls released Sunday point to a return to power for Prime Minister Narendra Modi—with some polls suggesting his party will gain seats. The polls are somewhat of a surprise: Conventional wisdom suggested Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would win fewer seats in parliament than in the 2014 election.

Exit polls should come with a healthy warning, particularly in India’s case. Given the number of parties, the size and diversity of the electorate, and inexact polling science, anything could happen when final results are declared on Thursday.

Even so, Indians are preparing for another five years of Modi. James Crabtree writes in FP that while Modi may share similarities with strongmen such as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, “liberals need not panic quite yet” given the checks that India’s democracy will place on the BJP’s worst instincts.

A greater worry for India is that the 2019 campaign was fought with increasingly hostile rhetoric. Amid all the heated political campaigning, there has been a reduced focus on development, infrastructure, and economic reform. Even though India remains the world’s fastest-growing large economy, its growth has slowed and unemployment has hit its highest rate in 45 years. Whoever leads India next has their work cut out.

—Ravi Agrawal

What to watch. India’s election commission will release final results this Thursday. There are 543 elected parliamentary seats on offer, and the BJP and its allies will be looking to win more than 272 seats to form a majority. In 2014, the BJP won a majority of seats on its own, the first time a single party had won so many seats in three decades.

The view from Islamabad. Just two months ago, nuclear-armed India and Pakistan pulled back from the brink of war. Fahd Humayun writes in FP that if Modi wins, his government may decide to ratchet up tensions. And even if the BJP’s share of seats goes down, it could “use Pakistan as a dog whistle to polarize public opinion as the party looks to regain lost ground.”

Talking business. Look for Indian stocks to rise and the rupee to strengthen today, as investors look for stability in New Delhi.


What We’re Following Today

Austria calls for snap election amid scandal. On Sunday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for a snap general election to be held in September following a scandal that took down the leader of his coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party. Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was caught on camera offering state contracts to a woman he thought was the niece of a Russian oligarch. He resigned over the weekend, leading Austria’s ruling coalition to fall apart.

Mainstream leaders hope that Strache’s downfall will have a ripple effect this week in the European Parliament elections, in which an alliance of Europe’s nationalist parties—including the Freedom Party—had been expecting to pick up a significant number of seats.

Sudanese military, opposition resume talks. Sudan’s ruling military council has resumed talks with protesters on the country’s political transition, following a three-day pause amid violence. Ahead of the meetings, the country’s interim vice president said that suspects in the killings of at least five protesters had been arrested, but he did not provide details. Before the talks were suspended, both sides had agreed on the composition of an interim parliament.

United States, Saudi Arabia escalate Iran rhetoric. U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his threats against Iran on Sunday, as Saudi Arabia warned it would respond to Iran with “all strength” if necessary. The escalation follows attacks on Saudi oil installations last week and a rocket fired into Baghdad’s “Green Zone” on Sunday. Two Democrats competing for the party’s 2020 nomination used the rhetoric as an opportunity to shift the debate to foreign policy.

Italy expected to close ports to migrant rescue boats. Today the Italian interior ministry is expected to approve a decree that closes the country’s ports to migrant rescue ships. The United Nations says the measure violates international law. On Sunday, Italian tax police seized a rescue vessel in Sicily on Sunday, paving the way for the migrants on board to disembark and risking a dispute with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the interior ministry.

Google suspends business with Huawei. Google has suspended some business—including sharing new Android software—with Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, which was blacklisted by the U.S. government last week. The move demonstrates how the Huawei ban could disrupt the global tech sector, Charles Rollet writes for FP.


The World This Week

U.S. prosecutors are expected to seize the belongings of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The property includes material that could be used as evidence against Assange in the United States if he is extradited next month.

Voters will choose their president on Tuesday in Malawi, where there are no reliable opinion polls but observers expect a close race. President Peter Mutharika is vying for a second term in the country, which is reliant on foreign aid and has recently experienced severe droughts.

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Paris this week to address how to resume peace talks in Libya. Haftar’s forces are seeking to take Tripoli, the capital of the United Nations-backed government. Macron has called for a ceasefire.

Voting for the European Parliament elections begins on Thursday in the European Union’s 28 member states and continues through Sunday, in what is widely seen as a test for right-wing populism. Tens of thousands protested against nationalism and the far-right in cities across Europe on Sunday.


Keep an Eye On

Polls in Argentina. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced she will run for vice president in Argentina’s elections later this year with Alberto Fernández, a longtime political operative, at the top of the Peronist ticket. The move is widely seen as strategic: Kirchner had been expected to challenge incumbent President Mauricio Macri, whose popularity has plunged amid the country’s economic crisis. Putting someone else at the top of the ticket may improve the Peronists’ chances.

Sexual harassment as a hate crime. Police officers in some parts of Britain have begun logging incidents targeting women as hate crimes to address underreporting, Jillian Keenan writes for FP. British activists are calling for a nationwide policy.

Corruption in Guatemala. An anti-corruption panel in Guatemala that has prosecuted more than 100 cases and set an example for the rest of Latin America is at risk, the New York Times reports. Ahead of the country’s presidential election in June, those imprisoned for corruption and their allies on the outside are seeking to dismantle it—with ripple effects that could be felt at the U.S. border.

Japan’s economy. With data released today expected to show a shrinking GDP in Japan, lawmakers are concerned that the economy can’t withstand a sales tax increase planned for October. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already delayed the tax hike twice.


Odds and Ends

The Dutch royal family and prime minister lavished rare praise on Duncan Laurence, the singer who won the annual Eurovision song contest for the Netherlands over the weekend. His victory means the country will host next year’s event.

Ahead of Australia’s elections, a betting company relying on early polls paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars (approximately $890,000) to those who had bet on a Labor Party win. After a surprise victory for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition, the bookmaker is paying again for the right result.


That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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