Trump’s secretary of state faces the Senate, an Italian court rules on another referendum and Iran mourns a former president.
TRUMP’S SECRETARY OF STATE FACES SENATE
On Wednesday, the US Senate will review Donald Trump’s controversial pick for secretary of state – former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson’s confirmation hearing will take place amid political tension over the Russian government’s role in hacks on November’s election.
Trump’s pick has oft been criticised for being too close to Russia – where he’s done business for decades – and President Putin, who awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013.
Trump himself has also been attacked for being too soft on the Kremlin in recent months, attacks which have grown louder and closer to home in recent weeks. Wednesday’s hearing will give Democrats, and some Republicans too, the platform to voice their unease over Mr Trump’s apparent pro-Russia stance.
Ultimately, it is very unlikely Rex Tillerson will be rejected by the Senate; a Cabinet pick hasn’t been turned down in a quarter of a century.
ITALIAN COURT RULES ON ANOTHER REFERENDUM
On Wednesday, Italy’s Constitutional Court will rule on a challenge to labour reforms brought by the country’s largest trade union – the CGIL – which want the laws put to a referendum. The reforms, known as the Jobs Act, were introduced by former PM Matteo Renzi and make it easier to monitor and fire workers.
If the court rules in favour of a referendum, one must be held between Apr. 15 and Jun. 15.
A ruling mandating a referendum brings with it the prospect of another referendum defeat for the ruling Democratic Party (PD), a politically unpalatable scenario. Thus if the court rules Italians must vote on the Jobs Act, PM Gentiloni’s caretaker administration is more likely to call early elections. This in turn raises questions about the weakness of the PD, and conversely, the strength of the anti-establishment, anti-EU Five Star Movement.
Some legal experts doubt whether the court will grant the referendum request (meaning the Jobs Act will stay). Nonetheless, the fragility of Gentiloni’s centre-left party will endure, as will the threat from the populists.
IRAN MOURNS RAFSANJANI
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets on Tuesday to mourn the death of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died of a heart attack on Sunday.
A supporter of current centrist President Hassan Rouhani, Rafsanjani was a regime loyalist, but one who pushed back against the hardline approach adopted by many. As such, the former president expertly navigated between conservative and moderate factions in Iranian politics, often helping to find consensus in the most impossible of deadlocks. With the country set to hold a presidential election in May, Mr Rafsanjani’s influence will be sorely missed by his protégé, President Rouhani.
Authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday and his unexpected death has been met with a wave of condolences. One even emerged from the most unusual of places: The White House.