2024
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Monitor Daily Podcast

June 14, 2024
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TODAY’S INTRO

The fleeting allure of autocracy

When you’re used to getting your way, what happens when people start pushing back? That’s what’s going on in Iran and India, and we examine that dynamic in two stories in today’s Daily. 

The situations are different. Yet they show that when the people are given any political voice at all, dissatisfaction with autocratic ways usually comes to the surface before too long.

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Tesla shareholders approve record pay for Musk. Are pricey CEOs worth it?

By voting for a huge and unconventional pay package for Tesla’s Elon Musk, shareholders highlight unsettled questions over what’s fair and effective in CEO pay.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Elon Musk arrives at the 10th Breakthrough Prize Ceremony April 13, 2024, in Los Angeles.
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At their annual meeting in Texas, shareholders of Tesla on Thursday took the latest step in a strange corporate tale of outsize pay for – and faith in – an unconventional CEO.

A majority approved, for the second time, a record-breaking pay package that could exceed $45 billion for Elon Musk. It was a personal triumph for the serial entrepreneur and a rebuff to the Delaware judge who rescinded the original package that shareholders approved in 2018. Tesla will use the symbolic vote as evidence to persuade the judge to approve the package.

The move also poses in the starkest terms a question that companies and economists have wrestled with for decades: How much is a CEO worth?

Last year, the median annual CEO pay among S&P 500 companies was about $16 million. That’s nearly 200 times the median American worker pay.

Where some see huge pay gaps as patently unfair, others emphasize that the best CEOs create enormous value. 

Mr. Musk’s deal is all stock – no salary – which means he earns no money for 10 years unless he meets the corporate goals set for 2028. 

Tesla shareholders approve record pay for Musk. Are pricey CEOs worth it?

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At their annual meeting in Texas, shareholders of Tesla on Thursday took the latest step in a strange corporate tale of outsize pay for – and faith in – an unconventional CEO.

A majority approved, for the second time, a record-breaking pay package that could exceed $45 billion for Elon Musk. It was a personal triumph for the highly successful serial entrepreneur and a rebuff to the Delaware judge who rescinded the original package that shareholders approved in 2018. Tesla will use the symbolic vote as evidence to persuade the judge to approve the package.

The move also poses in the starkest terms a question that companies and economists have wrestled with for decades: How much is a CEO worth?

Pro and con views of high CEO pay

Last year, the median CEO pay – the middle amount among S&P 500 companies – was about $16 million. That’s higher than what most CEOs receive in other countries and nearly 200 times what the median American worker takes home in a year, according to a new analysis for The Associated Press.

Such sums might seem patently unfair. Many progressives point out that the gap further widens the already yawning divide between America’s richest and regular workers. In 1980, counting in a slightly different way, the average CEO earned only about 40 times the average employee’s pay and benefits.

On the other hand, the best CEOs create enormous value: new products and services for consumers, bigger profits for shareholders, and more jobs for workers. Many conservatives ask, aren’t multimillion-dollar pay packages worth it if they help America’s biggest companies – and, by extension, the U.S. economy – grow by multibillion-dollar leaps and bounds?

How Musk’s pay package at Tesla works

Mr. Musk’s record-breaking pay package at Tesla makes a point for both sides in this debate.

For starters, his compensation at Tesla is huge but not guaranteed. Like that of many CEOs these days, his compensation depends on meeting long-term goals. But while many CEOs get a large salary in addition to stock, Mr. Musk’s deal is all stock, which means he earns no money for 10 years unless he meets the corporate goals set for him for 2028. 

Eric Gay/AP
Men wearing Texas flag-themed Western shirts stand next to a Tesla Cybertruck at the Tesla Gigafactory, June 13, 2024, in Austin, Texas.

Those targets, set in 2018, were ambitious. He had to boost Tesla’s market value elevenfold and grow profits to $14 billion before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Those are goals he’s already achieved (though Tesla’s value and profits have then fallen, which has prompted some of the shareholder suits against the original pay package and could spawn more).

If Mr. Musk meets his targets, he will earn far more than any other CEO of a publicly traded company in history. Last year’s best-compensated chief executive – Hock Tan of Broadcom – pulled in only a little over $160 million, according to AP. Mr. Musk would earn the equivalent of around $5 billion per year depending on the value of Tesla stock. 

“It’s an order of magnitude more egregious than the most egregious ever dared to ask for,” says Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a leading nonprofit in shareholder advocacy.  

It’s not surprising that Mr. Musk’s pay would increase. Academic studies show that CEO pay increases proportionally to the size of the companies they lead. And when executives underperform, shareholders make their disappointment known.

Apple’s Tim Cook took a one-third pay cut last year after fewer than two-thirds of shareholders approved his pay package. Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher hasn’t seen a pay raise for two years after shareholders rejected his pay package in 2003. 

Do CEOs have too much influence over boards?

All this suggests that market forces are mainly responsible for setting pay at the top, many economists say. But others say CEOs can manipulate the process to boost their pay if they can wield influence over the company board. Here again, Mr. Musk’s situation at Tesla stands out.

A 2017 study found that the average CEO of a large company owns less than 1% of the stock. Mr. Musk, like many high-tech entrepreneurs, owns substantially more of the company. With the new pay package, his stake would jump to more than 22%, according to one estimate. And Mr. Musk has asked for more. 

“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having 25% voting control. Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned,” he wrote on X earlier this year. “Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.”

Some analysts find such control – and especially his threat of leaving Tesla – as clear evidence of CEO manipulation. 

“Stockholders cannot cast meaningful votes on Musk’s pay package while his threat hangs, like the sword of Damocles, over Tesla’s future, and thus their own,” wrote Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard economist, and Robert Jackson, a former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in an article last week

The Delaware judge who struck down Mr. Musk’s pay package in January found that he improperly skewed the board’s approval process.

Also, Tesla shareholders voted in two measures Thursday to wrest some power from board members. They reduced their terms from three years to one and allowed a simple majority to approve future shareholder proposals. The board opposed both resolutions.

Whether companies overachieve with pricey CEOs remains an unresolved question. Mr. Behar of As You Sow says his research suggests that the 10 S&P companies with the highest-paid CEOs consistently underperform the other 490 companies in the stock index. But the 2017 study says the evidence is mixed. Most research finds a correlation between a firms’ value and a rise in the stock incentives of their CEOs, while some studies suggest that correlation weakens or even turns negative when CEOs own a big chunk of the company.    

To many of the Tesla shareholders, none of this mattered, as they voted to keep their unique CEO and his record-breaking pay in place. Many at the annual meeting prefaced their questions to Mr. Musk with gratitude and even adulation. 

“I love you guys!” Mr. Musk told them after the successful vote was announced.

Today’s news briefs

Putin cease-fire proposal: Russian President Vladimir Putin promises to order an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and begin negotiations if Kyiv starts withdrawing troops from the four regions annexed by Moscow in 2022 and renounces plans to join NATO.
Supreme Court gun ruling: The Supreme Court strikes down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory that allows semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.
U.S.-Houthi fight intensifies: The U.S.-led campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels has turned into the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II.
• Hajj pilgrimage begins: Muslim pilgrims converge on a vast tent camp in the desert near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, officially beginning the annual Hajj. 

Read these news briefs.

Will voters reward Biden’s tougher immigration stance? The view from a swing district.

For some voters, President Joe Biden’s tougher border action may be too little, too late. Here’s the view from a competitive Colorado district in a state grappling with a migrant influx. 

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U.S. President Joe Biden last week made it harder to access asylum – perhaps his toughest southern border action to date. Willie Ortega, a Colorado veteran who leans Democratic, knows this. But he’s mulling a vote for Donald Trump this year, whom he views as stronger on the issue. 

Ahead of the 2024 election, immigration remains a top concern for many Americans. That holds true in Colorado, where 6 in 10 voters say the recent influx of Central and South American migrants to the state is a “crisis” or “major problem.” And based on voter interviews this week, such concerns also resonate in Mr. Ortega’s 8th Congressional District – home of a competitive race that could reshape Congress on Election Day. 

With five months until November, adjustments like Mr. Biden’s new policy may not move the needle for most voters. But it’s clear that ongoing challenges of border management hit close to home in this interior blue state, without an easy resolution in sight.

Ultimately, voter decisions will reflect a partisan lens – and “who can push the messaging harder,” says Kyle Saunders, professor of political science at Colorado State University.

Will voters reward Biden’s tougher immigration stance? The view from a swing district.

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Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Willie Ortega, typically a Democratic voter, says he's mulling a vote for Donald Trump in the 2024 election due to immigration, in Greeley, Colorado, June 11, 2024.

Willie Ortega didn’t vote in 2020. Now with immigration top of mind, the Colorado veteran, who leans Democratic, is mulling a vote for Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden last week made it harder to access asylum – perhaps his toughest border action to date. Mr. Ortega knows this. But he still thinks Mr. Trump has the “discipline” to secure the southern border against illegal crossings and drugs. 

The United States is “one of the most powerful nations in the world. And why can’t you do that?” says Mr. Ortega, whose grandparents came from Mexico. He pauses on the sidewalk in downtown Greeley. 

Democrats, he says, seem “afraid to offend people” by taking more of a stand on border security.

Ahead of the 2024 election, immigration remains a top concern for many Americans. That holds true in Colorado, where 6 in 10 voters say the recent influx of Central and South American migrants to the state is a “crisis” or “major problem.” And based on voter interviews this week, such concerns also resonate in Mr. Ortega’s 8th Congressional District – home of a competitive race that could reshape Congress on Election Day. Candidates here, where around 39% of residents are Latino, are promoting their own varied immigration stories as part of their campaigns. 

Five months to November, adjustments like Mr. Biden’s new policy may not move the needle for most voters. But it’s clear that ongoing challenges of border management hit close to home in this interior blue state, without an easy resolution in sight. 

In the end, voter decisions will reflect a partisan lens – and “who can push the messaging harder,” says Kyle Saunders, professor of political science at Colorado State University.

Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands outside the Weld County Courthouse in Greeley, Colorado, June 11, 2024. The area is part of Colorado's 8th Congressional District, where candidates are touting their immigrant histories as part of their campaigns.

A toss-up district 

In 2020, Mr. Biden beat Mr. Trump in Colorado by 13.5 percentage points. But in the area of the new 8th Congressional District, drawn up in 2021 due to Colorado’s population growth, the Democrat’s lead narrowed to under 5 percentage points.

“There’s definitely a world in which Trump could carry this district in 2024,” says Erin Covey, analyst with The Cook Political Report. To her, this possibility raises the question of whether the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Yadira Caraveo, can “outrun Biden.” The Cook Political Report ranks the 8th District as a toss-up race that leans Democratic.

As other border measures have failed to gain GOP votes in Congress, the first-term congresswoman, trained as a pediatrician and the daughter of immigrants from Mexico, drafted her own immigration package focused on expanding resources to receiving cities and funding law enforcement. Though Dr. Caraveo was “pleased” to see executive action on the border last week, she thinks it fell short, reports Colorado Public Radio. 

“I’ve said repeatedly the President needs to take further action on this issue,” she told the outlet. “Republicans in Congress have demonstrated time and time again they are more interested in using immigration as a political tool than they are in working with the President to solve it as a matter of national security.” A spokesperson for the congresswoman says her team could not accommodate an interview request. 

Running in this month’s Republican primary in the district, state Rep. Gabe Evans, a veteran and former police officer whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico, laments the lapse of Trump policies that expelled migrants and forced them to wait in Mexico. He also criticizes state restrictions limiting local law enforcement coordination with the federal government regarding immigrants suspected of crimes.

“Secure the border – that’s Step 1. For everything, that’s Step 1. Because a deportation means nothing if they just come right back,” says the Trump-endorsed candidate. “After creating the issue ... now all of a sudden, he’s interested in fixing it,” Mr. Evans says of President Biden.

The campaign of the other Republican in the primary, former state lawmaker Janak Joshi, did not respond to interview requests. Originally from India, he supports mass deportations of people living in the U.S. without authorization. 

Facing ire over record-high illegal immigration, President Biden last week justified his new southern border policies in light of “Congress’s failure to update an immigration and asylum system that is simply broken.” 

Michael Brochstein/Sipa/AP & David Zalubowski/AP
Democratic U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo (left photo) speaks at a press conference in July 2023. State Rep. Gabe Evans (right photo) speaks at the first Republican primary debate for Colorado's 8th Congressional District in January 2024.

The changes don’t physically “close” the border. Instead, the government has further limited access to asylum for migrants who enter illegally. This is triggered when Border Patrol apprehensions – often a proxy for illegal crossings – reach a daily average of 2,500 or more, which they have for most of Biden’s presidency

A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted after the executive action was announced found that 70% of voters nationally support the policy.

In theory, the new rule makes it easier for the government to deport more people, faster – and initial reporting suggests this has begun. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which carries out deportations, did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Immigration’s local impact 

Conservatives, meanwhile, like Mr. Evans, have panned the policy as too little, too late. 

“I just think it’s a political stunt, because the borders are still open,” says Joe Petrocco, an unaffiliated former Republican in Brighton. Seated in a break room at Petrocco Farms, a large, family-owned produce farm where he serves as vice president, he raises population growth and shrinking rural areas.

“I have just concerns about our cities getting too big and our infrastructure not being able to manage,” says the farmer.

Some 20 miles south, Denver has tracked the arrival of more than 42,000 migrants since late 2022, though not all have stayed. Over the past two years, the Colorado capital and state have spent at least $100 million on migrant shelter, education, and other services such as health care. Many Coloradans are moved to help, even offering their homes. But many others harbor public safety and spending concerns tied to the new immigrants, who are sometimes federally barred from work permits, at least initially.

“To just mass-move them in here just is not a way our economy’s going to work,” says Ernest Kemm, a Republican in Commerce City who refurbishes homes. “We’re having to foot that bill.”

Frustration over federal inaction is also increasingly shared on the left. But voters like Erin Bauer, a Democrat who works at a software company, see the June 4 executive action as modest progress. 

“When parties can’t come together, I’m glad that someone can step up and make an effort,” she says, exiting her gym in Johnstown. “You have to work together to solve those problems. And when people aren’t willing to do that, someone else has to step in, and that’s what [President Biden] did.” 

Immigrant rights groups are challenging the legality of the new policies in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The plaintiffs cite the right to seek asylum under U.S. law – even if a migrant enters the country illegally between ports of entry. That matters to unaffiliated voter Jourdan Lamb, an addiction counselor who leans left. 

Making it harder to apply for asylum? “That’s not liberal,” says Ms. Lamb, watching her son splash through sprinklers at a park in Northglenn. “I think the United States has more than enough resources to be taking care of other people that need it.”

Why Iranian hard-liners are allowing a reformist candidate for president

In Iran, the revolution’s leadership sees every election as a referendum of sorts on its legitimacy. But as hard-liners have sought to solidify their control over the levers of power, political apathy has set in and voter turnout has fallen.

Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters
A newspaper with a cover picture of presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian at a newsstand in Tehran, Iran, June 13, 2024.
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When names were announced in Iran of the half dozen candidates approved to run for president to replace Ebrahim Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash last month, there was little surprise about five of them, all high-profile devotees of Iran’s ruling system.

But the sixth, from the reformist camp, has raised eyebrows. For three years, Iran’s reformists have been shut out of elections by an opaque vetting process that has ensured hard-liners’ power even as it disillusioned many Iranians.

Analysts say the approval of Masoud Pezeshkian, a former health minister, throws an unexpected wild card into the race. The straight-talking heart surgeon was the third choice of three names the reformist camp put forward as a condition for participating in the election. 

But his name on the ballot has sparked enthusiasm among elite reformist circles, which see a small chance of some change within the system, says Nasser Hadian, a retired political scientist. Still, it is far from clear if Dr. Pezeshkian can convince legions of Iranians to return to vote.

“He’s going to generate some hope. To what extent ... remains to be seen,” says Mr. Hadian, adding that he personally intends to vote this time despite skipping the three previous elections.

Why Iranian hard-liners are allowing a reformist candidate for president

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When names were announced in Iran of the half dozen candidates approved to run for president to replace Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month, there was little surprise about five of them.

All are high-profile and hard-line or conservative devotees of Iran’s ruling system.

But the sixth candidate, a prominent lawmaker from the reformist camp, has raised eyebrows. For three years, Iran’s reformists have systematically been shut out of elections by an opaque vetting process that has ensured hard-line control of all levers of power.

Analysts say the approval of Masoud Pezeshkian, a former health minister with ethnic Azeri roots and Kurdish connections, throws an unexpected wild card into the race. The straight-talking, man-of-the-people heart surgeon has limited charisma, and was the third choice of three names the reformist camp put forward as a condition for participating in the election.

Yet the inclusion of the reformist candidate may be aimed at increasing voter turnout – and therefore adding legitimacy – to an election process that is often carefully engineered, and these days rejected by many disillusioned Iranians. 

The stakes in the June 28 vote are high for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has enabled the hard-line takeover of Iranian politics. Iran’s supreme leader, he presided over the lethal, nationwide crackdown on anti-regime protests that erupted over the September 2022 killing of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody, allegedly for showing too much hair in public.

Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA/Reuters
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an event marking the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution, June 3, 2024.

Consequently, this election is being held at a historic low point of regime legitimacy and amid widespread political apathy – manifested in the country's lowest-ever voter turnouts in the last two elections – despite a chronic economic crisis and questions about the stable succession of the octogenarian Mr. Khamenei.

And the Islamic Republic and its “Axis of Resistance” allies are also engaged in a heightened regional confrontation with arch-foes Israel and the United States.

Dr. Pezeshkian’s name on the ballot has sparked enthusiasm among elite reformist circles, who see a small chance – where there was none a week ago – of some change within the system, says Nasser Hadian, a political scientist retired from the University of Tehran.

No candidate from the divided conservative camp can win the 50% threshold to avoid a second-round run-off July 5, he says. But it is also far from clear if Dr. Pezeshkian can convince legions of Iranians, who have given up on the establishment and its uncompromising social strictures, to return to the ballot box.

“He’s going to generate some hope. To what extent he can sustain that hope … remains to be seen, but he has a good chance,” says Mr. Hadian, adding that he personally intends to vote this time, like many people he knows, despite skipping the three previous elections.

Dr. Pezeshkian is “well aware of his constraints,” he says. “The question is: How far can the enthusiasm which has been generated among the elite extend to society, to the average citizen?

Vahid Salemi/AP
This combination of photos shows Iranian presidential candidates Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a former minister of justice (top right); Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the late President Raisi's vice president (top center); Saeed Jalili, former senior nuclear negotiator (top left); Masoud Pezeshkian, lawmaker and a former health minister (bottom right); Alireza Zakani, Tehran mayor (bottom center); and Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, parliament speaker (bottom left).

“Domestically, [Dr. Pezeshkian] can fill the gap between the state and the people,” adds Mr. Hadian. Already conservatives “have been shaken to their bones. They think they are going to lose the privileged position that they have. … Suddenly, there is the possibility of change.”

The irony of such a result coming from the hard-line Guardian Council, the establishment body that vets candidates, was not lost on well-known filmmaker and historian Hossein Dehbashi: “Who would have thought that the reformists would be much more satisfied with the disqualifications than the principlists?" he wrote on X, using a term hard-liners call themselves.

Dr. Pezeshkian won popular plaudits just days after the death of Ms. Amini, as protests gripped the country. Speaking on state-run TV, he said the behavior of the regime more than four decades after Iran’s Islamic Revolution makes “our children … hate our religion,” despite it exercising control over all aspects of citizens’ education and life.

“We want to implement religious faith through the use of force,” he said. “This is scientifically impossible.”

Still, Dr. Pezeshkian was criticized on social media this week when he appeared openly subservient to the supreme leader. “We are not supposed to draft a new plan,” he told state-run TV in his first interview as candidate. Ayatollah Khamenei had set the “general guidelines,” and “obviously any new administration should implement the laws” within that framework.

The lone reformist will be competing against conservative stalwarts that include Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the parliament speaker, who has run three times for president, and Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator whose tenure from 2007 to 2013 was marked by lack of progress in nuclear talks with world powers, and who now advises the supreme leader.

Vahid Salemi/AP
An Iranian woman holds a poster of the late President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him in downtown Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2024.

“I would have been surprised if they gave the green light … to a stronger reformist,” says Hamidreza Azizi, an Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. Dr. Pezeshkian, he adds, was a “safe bet” for the establishment because he is at the “conservative end of the reformist camp.”

He notes that Mr. Khamenei “has been praising what he calls Raisi’s achievements, and he calls for continuity. He wants more of the same. The only thing that remains unknown is which candidate is viewed as the best option.”

In that context, approving the “least risky” reform candidate was smart, says Dr. Azizi, “to force the reformists to come in and give legitimacy to the election. Now the reformists cannot say they are not going to be there.”

But it also signals a calculation that reformists won’t be able to rally a last-minute surge of popular support, as they have in the past.

“Society is beyond the threshold of being easily mobilized. The situation is totally different, even from two years ago,” Dr. Azizi adds. “Pezeshkian is not the person who can mobilize. Surprises are always possible, but that would be a big surprise this time.”

More than a strongman? In India, coalition politics will be Modi’s third-term test.

India has formed a new coalition government – will it last? Only, experts say, if the ruling party can temper its Hindu nationalism and compromise on other key issues after a decade of calling the shots.

Adnan Abidi/Reuters
People attend Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in New Delhi, June 9, 2024.
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on his third term in office this week, but for the first time in years, he does not wield an absolute majority in Parliament.

Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party fell 32 seats short of the majority mark during recent elections, turning two regional parties into kingmakers. While the BJP still holds significant power, this administration is relying heavily on the Telugu Desam Party and Janta Dal United, whose leaders cosigned the new government but have also made it clear that they don’t agree with everything the BJP stands for – particularly when it comes to the treatment of religious minorities and caste issues.

The coalition dynamics will test Mr. Modi’s political acumen as he navigates the diverse demands of his allies and party, all while facing a strengthened opposition. Some wonder if the prime minister – who has long been able to push through his agenda with relative ease – is up for the task, or if his government will collapse before the five-year term is up.

“Running a coalition requires consensus and compromise by all parties,” says political scientist Zoya Hasan. “So far, [Mr. Modi’s] had his way. It will not be easy for him to change his strongman leadership style.”

More than a strongman? In India, coalition politics will be Modi’s third-term test.

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Having taken his oath and appointed his Cabinet, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on his third term in office this week. But all is not the same in Delhi. 

During the recent general elections, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party fell 32 seats short of the majority mark in India’s Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, turning two regional parties into kingmakers. After 10 years of Mr. Modi wielding nearly absolute authority, this administration will rely heavily on the support of the Telugu Desam Party and Janta Dal United, whose leaders cosigned the new government but have also made it clear that they don’t agree with everything the BJP stands for. 

The coalition dynamics will test Mr. Modi’s political acumen as he navigates the diverse demands of his allies and party. The future of his government hinges on this balance, with major implications for Indian democracy. 

The BJP still holds significant power, but Zoya Hasan, professor emerita at the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says the election verdict “marks a return to coalition politics.”

She says it will be a challenge for the prime minister to temper his party’s Hindu nationalist agenda, noting the complete lack of Muslim appointees in his new Cabinet, and perhaps more so to let go of its centralized style of governance. 

“Running a coalition requires consensus and compromise by all parties,” she says. “So far, [Mr. Modi’s] had his way. It will not be easy for him to change his strongman leadership style.”

Manish Swarup/AP
Narendra Modi greets a gathering as he arrives to take the oath as prime minister of India at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. The leader, who is in his 70s, is only the second Indian prime minister to retain power for a third term.

Can Mr. Modi lead a coalition?

Mr. Modi has thrice served as chief minister of India’s Gujarat state and twice as prime minister, all with a clear majority in the state assembly and Lok Sabha, respectively. Armed with a strong mandate, he’s had a leadership style characterized by decisiveness and an ability to push through his agenda with relative ease.

However, this new government requires Mr. Modi to cultivate a spirit of collaboration and negotiation.

Amarjit Singh Dulat, a former Indian spy chief and an adviser to the prime minister during the 2000-04 BJP government, says that India has seen several coalitions fail due to differences between parties. Back in 1998, the BJP formed a coalition government that lasted only a year before allies withdrew support.

Experts say it sometimes comes down to personality.

“The question here is, How much is Modi going to adjust?” says Mr. Dulat. “Temperamentally, he is not a coalition man.” 

That said, there are areas that experts are watching closely for signs of stress, including the government’s attitude toward religious minorities and caste.

In the lead-up to elections, BJP leaders delivered fiery Hindu nationalist speeches and objected to the reservation of education and government jobs for Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. Mr. Modi pledged to eliminate “religion-based reservations” if reelected. But since then, Telugu Desam Party leaders have doubled down on advocating for such quotas, insisting that they serve a social justice purpose. At the same time, Janta Dal United spokesperson K.C. Tyagi said the party would pursue a nationwide caste census, something the BJP has worked hard to avoid.

Neerja Chowdhury, author of “How Prime Ministers Decide,” expects Mr. Modi to avoid polarizing issues and focus on things like jobs and cost of living. 

“The mood in the country has shifted. The [parties allied to the BJP] have Muslims as their vote base, and [the BJP] will worry about this,” she says. “Modi will stick to governance issues.”

Altaf Qadri/AP
Supporters of the Congress party cheer its leader Rahul Gandhi (center) as he leaves the party headquarters after addressing a press conference in New Delhi, June 4, 2024.

Opposition bides its time 

The opposition has accepted the election results but has not conceded defeat, seeing the BJP’s losses as a rejection of the Modi brand of leadership. 

Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge, representing a coalition of over two dozen opposition parties known as I.N.D.I.A., has stated that the alliance will take “appropriate steps at the appropriate time” to fulfill the people’s desire for change.

Shazi Ilmi, a national spokesperson for the BJP, insists her party is not shaken. The BJP won more seats than any other party in the Lok Sabha and retained all major Cabinet positions, including defense, internal security, finance, and foreign affairs.

“The government has been formed, but Congress still can’t digest it,” she says, adding that the BJP will collaborate effectively with its allied parties. Ms. Ilmi emphasizes the shared goal of making India the world’s third-largest economy, and of addressing rural distress. 

Yet some experts believe the opposition’s wait-and-see policy could bear fruit.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former adviser to the prime minister during the 1999-2004 BJP government, does not believe the current government will last the full five-year term, and predicts that the country’s political landscape will shift dramatically in the next couple of years.

“In the next two years, the BJP is going to lose several state elections, which will further weaken the ruling party,” he says. “For a government to last its full term, it must have the support of the people – support of the people at the center, and support of the people in the states. It will weaken the hands of the prime minister, and that will set in motion new political developments.”

Umer Asif
Sudheendra Kulkarni was an adviser to the prime minister during the 1999-2004 Bharatiya Janata Party government.

A more vibrant democracy

To some extent, India’s political landscape has already changed. Not only will the BJP need to sacrifice a degree of control in this new era, but it must also do so while facing a strengthened opposition. 

Over six weeks and 642 million votes, I.N.D.I.A. managed to secure 234 seats in the Lok Sabha, falling short of the majority mark but still becoming a formidable voting bloc.

In the past, Mr. Modi has frequently been accused of suppressing dissent. At one point last year, the government had suspended nearly two-thirds of opposition parliamentarians, leaving the BJP almost oppositionless. One suspended member called it a “betrayal of parliamentary democracy.”

But with the opposition alliance holding nearly half of the Lok Sabha, experts say that sort of suppression will be far more difficult. Ms. Chowdhury, the author, says that in a democracy, the opposition should be strong and vibrant – and for arguably the first time in years, it is.

“The government will not be able to ram through legislation without a discussion,” she says. “They will not be able to throw out parliamentarians or suspend them. So opposition will make life difficult for the government.”

Podcast

Why greening a city meant first winning over its jaded residents

Our multimedia reporter (really) likes trees. He rejoins our podcast, on which he’s also a producer, to talk about a story he reported on a hot city’s push to add a cooling canopy – and why that had its earnest planting partners working hard for public trust.  

Like many big cities, Louisville, Kentucky, has a “heat island” problem. Chalk it up to its location, an abundance of asphalt, and years of steady tree loss.

So when a nonprofit organization formed by civic leaders unveiled a plan to supply some shade a decade ago by offering to plant trees in public and private spaces, it seemed like a home-run idea.

But some residents, like those in parts of other cities, had doubts.

“There is sometimes … a suspicion of city tree-planting initiatives,” says multimedia reporter Jingnan Peng on our “Why We Wrote This” podcast. Planting – whether through public or private efforts – can be followed by neglect. Residents have no say on tree types. “So that has led to a certain distrust.”

Can trust be nurtured?

“Really, [that’s] the center of the story,” says Jing, who also produced this episode, which focuses on his recent story. What he found: In cities where there is public input and agency, buy-in follows. And shade-giving canopies grow. – Clayton Collins and Jingnan Peng

Find story links and a full transcript here.

Note: This episode includes material from an earlier show with Jing about another urban-forest phenomenon: dense, biodiverse Miyawaki forests. 

Turning Trust Into Tree Cover

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Graceful honesty for the beautiful game

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The world’s most popular sport – football (for Americans, read “soccer”) – is about to find out if greater honesty can be a game changer. That, at least, is what the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) believes as it institutes new rules in time for its Continent-wide tournament with 24 national teams. The first match starts Friday with 51 matches spread over 31 days.

For years, UEFA has wanted to end the on-field spectacle in which players on both sides gang up on a referee claiming to speak the truth about a foul (or no foul). The display of dishonesty can be distasteful. Referees feel menaced. Trust between officials and teams breaks down.

The new rules aim to bring clarity and simplicity about a ref’s call, perhaps changing player behavior.

The beautiful game could become a model of how honesty can help any society that wants everyone to play by the same rules.

Graceful honesty for the beautiful game

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Hungary's soccer team trains for the men's European Championship, or UEFA EURO 2024.

The world’s most popular sport – football (for Americans, read “soccer”) – is about to find out if greater honesty can be a game changer.

That, at least, is what the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) believes as it institutes new rules in time for its Continent-wide tournament with 24 national teams.

The first match starts Friday in host country Germany with 51 matches spread over 31 days. The viewership of the European Football Championship ranks high in comparison with other quadrennial sports extravaganzas.

For years, UEFA has wanted to end the on-field spectacle in which players on both sides gang up on a referee claiming to speak the truth about a foul (or no foul). The display of dishonesty can be distasteful. Referees feel menaced. Trust between officials and teams breaks down.

“Explaining a decision with up to 22 players mobbing you is impossible for a referee,” stated UEFA managing director of refereeing Roberto Rosetti. “It can lead to a breakdown in communication, with the beautiful game turning very ugly very quickly.”

The new rules aim to bring clarity and simplicity about a ref’s call, perhaps changing player behavior on the pitch (for Americans, read “field”).

For one, only a team captain can now approach the referee, or if the captain is the goalkeeper, another player can step in. Anyone else who dissents or shows disrespect gets a yellow card (for Americans, read “warning”).

“The other players, they have to think about [playing]. That’s it, finish,” said Mr. Rosetti.

A second rule will see referees explaining their decisions in detail to teams – and to spectators. Explanations will be broadcast on giant screens in stadiums. Mr. Rosetti gave an example: “Germany number nine touch the ball with his left arm which was in an unnatural position above the shoulder and making his body bigger.”

In addition, Euro 2024 for the first time will use a new type of ball fitted with sensors that can detect whether a player touched it and that can indicate whether a player was offside. These “robot” balls, which rely on microchips, may help curb cheating.

A team of 18 referees will officiate at Euro 2024, all the way to the final match in Berlin on July 14. With the added transparency, the refs may feel more grace and dignity from the players. And the beautiful game could become a model of how honesty can help any society that wants everyone to play by the same rules.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

‘Our Father’

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As our divine Parent, God is not far off and absent, but ever present with us, and we are able to feel and experience His comforting love.

‘Our Father’

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

“Our Father.” Those are the first words of the heartfelt prayer, known as the Lord’s Prayer, that Jesus gave his followers. I may have prayed it more times than I can count. Yet, recently, those two words struck me differently.

I’d tended to envision God’s fatherhood in a more general way, embracing all humanity, as He does. But it has become increasingly clear to me that this means God is actually the real and only Father of each one of us individually. So when I pray, “Our Father,” I am talking to my one and only Father, who is always very tangibly with me.

What is the nature of this ever-present Father? Did material conditions institute God? Clearly not. The Bible identifies God as Spirit. Spirit never could have any dependence on materiality, and we must understand this (see John 4:24).

We could interview several billion of the earth’s inhabitants and ask them to explain what created us. On account of the conditioning of education and what the material senses tell us, many would inevitably say that matter alone began us and continues us. But Jesus has led us to consider things differently. To encourage his followers to see the glorious benefits of renouncing a physical sense of origin for a spiritual sense of self, Jesus said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Jesus proved continually that finding life in God brings healing and confidence. We can all do this very same thing today. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy explains, “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63).

When I was little, I sometimes lived with different families since my parents weren’t always able to care for me. During those times, when my dad would come visit, my heart would just sing! Then, as I began attending Christian Science Sunday School, I learned that, actually, God is the Father, not only of me, but of my dad, too. My goodness, this idea became so comforting, and it made me love God so very much. Truly, every day began to feel like a sort of Father’s Day.

The Bible celebrates God as Father, encouraging everyone to, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us” (I John 3:1). In prayer, it’s so heartening to behold the incredible manner in which our Father, without exception, is always present and loving every single one of us.

From whom do we as spiritual creations inherit all of our good traits and qualities? From our one and only Father! Each moment, in our oneness with our Father, divine Spirit, we are inheriting all that makes up God’s love and goodness. To be the offspring of Spirit means that, while we deeply appreciate everything that our earthly parents have done for us, our Father created us perfectly in eternal Life, God.

God’s fathering is so comforting and loving. Yet, it’s also powerful. Why? Because our only Father is truly the only presence. That means that our Father is the only power present.

As I discovered for myself when I was little, it is allowing knowledge of God’s fathering power to permeate our feelings and perspectives that transforms us. Under the goodness and care of our Father, including our Father’s supreme power, we can feel fear melt, finding confidence and healing in its place. With God as our Father, we truly know that all is well and feel profound peace because of it.

On this Father’s Day and every day, we can certainly express heartfelt love to our dad and appreciate all our parents have done for us. But let’s also gratefully consider what it means to us that God is our very intimate and loving Father. Realizing this is a deep joy. It is no wonder why Jesus encouraged, “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).

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You’re a grand old flag

Mike Segar/Reuters
The largest free-flying U.S. flag in the world hangs from the western span of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City, on the nation’s annual Flag Day, June 14.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us this week. We’ll start next week with the touching story of how the Ukrainian city of Donetsk – once known as the city of a million roses – is now at the center of war. But in modest private gardens, town parks, gas stations, and highway median strips, roses there today have come to symbolize hope and perseverance. 

More issues

2024
June
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