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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw everything he had at the capital, but it was all in vain.

New Delhi’s decisive rejection of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in state elections is the latest show of defiance by a key city against the incumbent tide of nationalist populism.

In Europe, Warsaw, Budapest and Prague have emerged as bastions against the illiberal policies of the respective governments in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, elected a mayor in defiance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a city he once ran — and his brand of identity politics. Londoners overwhelmingly opposed Brexit.

New York, Los Angeles and Washington all resisted Donald Trump at the last U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Big cities tend to have better educated and more cosmopolitan residents who benefit from superior services and opportunities, so it’s perhaps no great surprise they choose their own political path.

And of course local issues matter every bit as much as national politics: In Delhi, water supply and education dominated. Even so, the results announced yesterday showed that in the national capital, the “Modi magic is not working,” said political analyst Satish Misra.

As populists dig in, the world’s major cities may offer some respite from increasingly embittered political divisions.

Global Headlines

Tight finish | Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, fending off strong challenges from Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar as he sought to solidify his status as standard bearer of a Democratic party split between progressives and moderates. The tight finish allows all three to claim a measure of success before the race accelerates into a multi-state dash.

Joe Biden’s campaign saw his fifth-place finish coming early enough to hightail it to South Carolina, a state where he’s long held a giant lead in polling, before last night’s voting even ended. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has dropped out of the race.

Jail time | All four U.S. government prosecutors who backed a long prison stay for Trump ally Roger Stone resigned from the case, a stunning rebuke to the Justice Department after it cut his recommended sentence by more than half. Their resignation capped a remarkable day in which the Justice Department shifted its stance hours after Trump tweeted criticism of the proposed punishment.

In doubt | President Xi Jinping and other voices in Beijing are expressing optimism about the country’s economy, with Xi telling Indonesian leader Joko Widodo in a phone call that China will “be more prosperous” after beating its deadly coronavirus. But market economists are less confident, and numerous banks cut their forecasts for 2020 in recent weeks. The virus has now killed more than 1,100 people, as authorities battle to contain its spread.

Shared interests | For all the bad blood between their leaders, the governments of South America’s two largest economies are starting a diplomatic dance to discuss trade and political issues they can’t put off for too long: While Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez needs as much support as he can get for upcoming debt talks with the International Monetary Fund, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro seeks backing for the EU-Mercosur trade deal.

Assad’s calculation | Syrian President Bashar al-Assad runs the risk of severe Turkish retaliation in his drive to recapture the last major rebel-held areas in Idlib province. But as Sylvia Westall and Donna Abu-Nasr report, with his forces backed by Russian air power and the U.S. disengaged, the possible reward of winning Idlib and then reconnecting Aleppo, once the nation’s economic engine, to Damascus and the coast is a gamble worth taking.

 

What to Watch

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid and chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier traded blows yesterday as they discuss the post-divorce future of European capital markets. The flashpoint is a policy called “equivalence” that would give U.K. firms continued access to the single market. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is generating economic losses of $8 billion a day, or about about 3.3% of global gross domestic product, according to a Greenpeace report. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his fourth state-of-the-nation address tomorrow with a mixed bag of results in igniting a stagnant economy and rooting out widespread corruption.

And finally … “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho is getting support from an unexpected quarter following his historic Academy Awards triumph: South Korean conservatives. Since Bong became the first director of a foreign-language film to hoist a Best Picture Oscar, conservative politicians have been rushing to erect statues and name streets after him. The calls are surprising coming from members of South Korea’s Liberty Korea Party, the successor to the group that once backed a blacklist that denied state funding to artists such as Bong and more than 9,000 other cultural figures critical of the government.

 

–With assistance from Karen Leigh, Brendan Scott, Bibhudatta Pradhan and Walter Brandimarte.

To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at acrawford6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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