Foreign affairs

By Gideon Rachman
What should western politicians be most worried about: growth, inequality, the environment, education? To judge from today’s discourse, the answer seems to be none of the above. Instead, in the past month, both Barack Obama, US president, and David Cameron, UK prime minister, have made big speeches on immigration. At the weekend Swiss voters rejected a proposal virtually to end the flow of incomers to their country. But anti-immigration parties have made strong gains in a variety of other European nations, including Sweden and Italy, in the past year.

Nicolas Sarkozy is back as leader of France’s centre-right UMP party. The stage is set for him to run for the presidency in 2017. Given the dreadful opinion-poll ratings of President François Hollande, Mr Sarkozy must surely now be considered the favourite to be France’s next president.

But it is not all good news for the former and would-be future president. His victory margin in the UMP poll was a relatively narrow 64.5 per cent. That will probably not be enough to deter potential challengers for the UMP nomination in 2017 – including credible alternatives such as Alain Juppé. Read more

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What does Podemos want?
It is, without doubt, the question that has occupied political analysts and commentators in Spain more than any other in recent weeks.
The country’s new anti-establishment party has gone from an idea to a mass movement in just ten months.

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All smiles: foreign ministers of the six world powers at the nuclear talks in Vienna. Getty

The failure to meet this week’s deadline for a definitive nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (the US, UK, France, Russia and China, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) is ominous. True, the negotiations, already extended once after the interim agreement a year ago, have been given a new deadline of June next year. But musings of the glass half full, glass half empty variety under-represent just how difficult it will be now to close a deal, and how much is at stake if this chance to bring the Islamic Republic in from the cold slips away. Read more

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By Gideon Rachman
For centuries European navies roamed the world’s seas – to explore, to trade, to establish empires and to wage war. So it will be quite a moment when the Chinese navy appears in the Mediterranean next spring, on joint exercises with the Russians. This plan to hold naval exercises was announced in Beijing last week, after a Russian-Chinese meeting devoted to military co-operation between the two countries.

Another week, another sign of political upheaval in Spain.

Monday brought a fresh poll showing that Podemos, the upstart anti-establishment party, is now the most popular political movement in the country. The survey, published in the El Mundo daily, gave Podemos 28.3 per cent of the vote, two points ahead of the ruling Popular party and more than eight points ahead of the opposition Socialists. Not bad for a party founded just 10 months ago by a group of political scientists

It was not the first time that the new party has come first in an opinion poll. But the latest survey made clear that the Podemos surge is no statistical aberration. Fuelled by wide-spread disdain for Spain’s political class and a festering social crisis, the new party appears to be on course to shatter Spain’s established two-party system – and render any prediction as to who might govern the country after next year’s general election obsolete. Read more

The crew that was dead set against raising consumption tax in Japan will be feeling vindicated. The economy unexpectedly fell back into recession in the third quarter, contracting 0.4 per cent quarter on quarter, or 1.6 per cent on an annualised basis. That makes it highly unlikely that prime minister Shinzo Abe will push ahead with a second round of VAT hikes, from 8 per cent to 10 per cent, after the first increase from 5 per cent in April. At least for now.

Here are seven charts showing the worrying side of Abenomics, and some reasons to be hopeful. Read more

Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, said earlier this month that central bankers across the eurozone would begin readying preparations for new measures to stave off economic stagnation, should growth and inflation continue to elude the region.

One of the reasons why the bloc’s officials are now teaming up is that there is little left in the European Central Bank’s armoury that does not involve buying government bonds. This is a hugely controversial idea in countries such as Germany, where it is seen as a dodge for high rolling peripheral economies.

Some of the region’s most respected economists are keen to help out. Read more

Moroccan supporters gesture next to a placard reading "Long life to a Morocco without Ebola". Morocco was stripped of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, and thrown out of the tournament, after saying it wanted to postpone the tournament due to fears over the Ebola epidemic. Getty

It’s been a bad week for international football. Fifa is in disarray over bribery allegations, and now African football is grappling with controversy over its prestigious tournament, the African Cup of Nations. Read more

  • A sea patrol to help cope with a surge in the number of migrants heading for Italy via the southern Mediterranean was launched this month, but at least 100 miles of dangerous water between Lampedusa and Libya will be unpatrolled
  • The apparent murder of 43 students has turned Mexico into a tinderbox of volatile and increasingly violent protests, as scandal fuels a sense of things spinning out of control for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration
  • Ahead of this weekend’s G20 summit, policymakers are competing to describe the global economy in the most apocalyptic terms. Instead they should address big issues like exchange rate management and rising protectionism
  • Mikhail Gorbachev is wrong about a new cold war – unlike Communism, Vladimir Putin’s Russia does not have an alternative ideology to sell. But cold war lessons of patience and resolve should be relearnt, for they add up to deterrence
  • In Venezuela, a crackdown on the black market in regulated goods – which include eggs, powdered milk, detergent and baby diapers – risks alienating some of the poor Venezuelans who were long loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez (Washington Post)

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Saturday night at the protest camp  © Amie Tsang

“If you have not shown up by midnight I will assume you are a no-show. Checkout is at noon. You are alone? For girls on their own, for safety, we recommend these tents here.” The receptionist gestures to a row of camouflaged tents nearby. “The only problem is it will be more noisy.” Read more

People wait in line at a government employment office in Madrid – Getty

A strong, broadly based economic recovery in the eurozone is nowhere in sight – as will become clear on Friday, when Eurostat, the EU agency, and several national statistical offices publish estimates for gross domestic product growth in the third quarter of this year. Read more

Mark Carney, governor, will unveil the Bank of England’s latest forecasts for the UK economy and give further guidance on the likely path of interest rate rises in London at 1030 GMT on Wednesday. Here are the key things to watch out for: Read more

For the past 15 years, there has been little good to say about Italy’s economic performance, and even less about the quality of Italian political life.

Yet one Italian institution emerges with its reputation unscathed – and even strengthened – from this long spell of incompetence, corruption and decline.

I am speaking of the presidency. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who served as head of state from 1999-2006, and Giorgio Napolitano, his successor and the current president, have exemplified everything that is dignified, decent and honourable about their country. Their behaviour in office has put the squabbling and self-serving political classes to shame – and it has preserved respect for Italy among its allies and partners abroad. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

This weekend America announced that it was sending more troops to Iraq, Russia allegedly sent more troops into Ukraine and President Barack Obama set off for Beijing.

By Victor Mallet

Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister, has relaunched his country’s controversial claims to some of the world’s greatest scientific achievements with his suggestion that ancient India was adept at genetics and plastic surgery, including the grafting of the elephant’s head onto the god Ganesh.

His remarks – ironically made at the opening of a high-tech hospital in Mumbai – have revived a political debate about the growing influence of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the Organisation of National Volunteers) over the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

Hindu fundamentalists are delighted by Mr Modi’s words, left-wingers are appalled or mocking and many foreigners are simply bemused that India’s real cultural, scientific and medical achievements are being overshadowed by simplistic references to the mythological past. Read more

Viktor Yanukovich's despotic decor

This is shaping up as the year of the controversial presidential mansion. In February, after the revolution that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine, one of the very first things that demonstrators did was to head for his residence outside Kiev. Pictures of its vast grounds, including a lake and a galleon, were soon doing the rounds of the internet. Read more

The European Central Bank’s governing council gathered in Frankfurt on Wednesday for its monthly meeting, which will end on Thursday with the central bank’s policy decision on interest rates and the traditional press conference by president Mario Draghi. Here are three things to watch for:

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