Morning Brief

Europe Votes

Plus: Election results expected in India, protests in Indonesia, and the other stories we're following today.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian Lega party, delivers a speech during a nationalist rally on May 18, ahead of EU Parliament elections.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian Lega party, delivers a speech during a nationalist rally on May 18, ahead of EU Parliament elections. Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Voting begins in elections for the EU Parliament, official election results are expected in India, and protesters and police clash for the second night in Indonesia.

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What to Watch as Europe Votes

Voting begins today in elections to the EU Parliament that could shape policy and the European project itself as it faces unprecedented challenges. Britain and the Netherlands vote today. The phased elections will last four days, with results released late on Sunday.

Observers say the vote will be a test of the power of Europe’s right-wing populism. Opinion polls have shown Euroskeptics and nationalists gaining ground—but not too much ground. On Wednesday French President Emmanuel Macron made his pitch for a centrist coalition.

Does it matter? While people vote directly for the EU Parliament, there are seldom tangible effects at home. “In some countries, where governing majorities may be fragile, the vote could be consequential. Elsewhere, it will blow over,” Tomas Valasek, the director of Carnegie Europe, wrote in an email. Those who could benefit most include anti-populist parties like Macron’s En Marche and Volt Europa.

The effects of Brexit chaos. Britain goes to the polls two months after it was supposed to leave the European Union, with its own Parliament deadlocked and its prime minister under pressure to resign. The anti-EU Brexit Party will likely win. “What happens to them after Brexit is anyone’s guess,” Valasek wrote. But Brexit may shape the composition of the rest of the EU Parliament: “The chaos in the UK has cost anti-EU parties elsewhere in Europe dearly,” he wrote.

Who will lead? Populists won’t lead the EU Parliament. Anti-EU parties likely won’t muster 20 percent of votes. But the appointed European Commission, which proposes legislation, could lean populist for the first time, Valasek wrote. “This would be a small revolution in EU politics. The Commission was designed to be the quiet technocratic branch, defending common EU interests. How does it do with anti-EU firebrands in its midst?”

Who else to watch. Valasek says to keep an eye on Alternative for Germany and the Greens in Germany, as both could chip away at the country’s centrist coalition, and the Polish opposition, which is hoping to build momentum ahead of national elections later this year.

What We’re Following Today

Votes counted in India’s marathon election. Official results are expected today in India’s six-week general election, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party competing against a disparate opposition. The election was widely seen as a referendum on Modi, and most exit polls predict a resounding win for the prime minister and his allies. If Modi wins, don’t expect a full transition to strongman leadership, James Crabtree writes for FP.

Protests continue in Indonesia. Protesters and riot police clashed for the second night in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. The unrest began after the official announcement that President Joko Widodo won the April 17 election. His challenger, Prabowo Subianto, has alleged fraud and plans to challenge the results. Six people were killed during the first night of riots.

Global aviation authorities meet. Regulators from 33 countries will meet today in Texas to review Boeing’s case for putting its 737 Max jet back in the air after an update to the software linked to deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority seems likely to allow it, while the European agency has stricter conditions. Meanwhile, three of China’s largest airlines have demanded compensation from Boeing over their grounded 737 Max fleets.

A boost for Bolsonaro. Lawmakers in Brazil approved President Jair Bolsonaro’s decision to rearrange the country’s executive branch on Wednesday, giving his government a significant win. Failure would have forced a ministry reshuffle and weakened Bolsonaro as he rallies support for a significant pension reform bill.

Keep an Eye On

Deadlock in Sudan. There is no date set for resumed talks between Sudan’s ruling military and the opposition on a political transition. The interim vice president, Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, says he wants a handover to happen soon. But there is evidence of a division within the military government, Justin Lynch reports for FP. “The counterrevolution is digging in,” he writes.

A prolonged battle for Tripoli. The Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar declined to commit to a ceasefire in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday. Haftar’s forces are battling the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, in what the United Nations’ Libya envoy has called “just the start of a long and bloody war.”

Mexico’s refugee agency. Mexico will likely receive 60,000 applications for asylum this year, twice as many as in 2018. Facing its smallest budget in years, the country’s small refugee agency has appealed to the United Nations for assistance. Mexico is hoping to slow the surge in migration from Central America by 2020, an official said Wednesday.

Google ads in Europe. An Irish watchdog is probing whether Google’s use of personal data in targeted advertising violates the European Union’s privacy laws. Google has previously been fined by European regulators for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Trump’s nuclear button. U.S. President Donald Trump has absolute authority to launch nuclear weapons. That was once a check on the military, but now the president needs his own, Anne Harrington and Cheryl Rofer argue for FP. Earlier this week, a U.N. nuclear security expert said that the global risk of nuclear war is currently higher “than at any time since World War II.”

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Odds and Ends

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky, who once played the president on television, announced his staff on Wednesday and several roles have gone to former TV colleagues—including a scriptwriter.

The Omani writer Jokha Alharthi is the first author to win the Man Booker International Prize for work originally written in Arabic. Her winning novel Celestial Bodies tells the story of three sisters grappling with cultural changes in Oman.

Some charities are using cryptocurrency to send aid to families in Venezuela, where the inflation rate by some estimates has reached 67,000 percent.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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