Saturday, 16 February 2019

Ukraine faces crowded and combative elections

There is no clear frontrunner ahead of next month’s presidential election and huge challenges face the eventual winner


An uphill battle awaits incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s March 31 presidential election as, despite his lagging popularity, he aims to rally nationalist-leaning voters in a bid to secure a second mandate.

With a modest 10.8% approval rating, victory looks distant. Yet Poroshenko is still among the front-runners in a presidential race tallying a record 44 candidates, none of whom are expected to secure more than 20% support.

Elected in the aftermath of the 2014 “Maidan Revolution” that overturned pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych’s corruption-plagued rule, Poroshenko – a billionaire businessman before entering politics – was entrusted with the difficult task of guiding Ukraine toward a new western-oriented, democratic path and away from Moscow’s orbit.

Five years have passed since tumultuous scenes of revolution unfolded in Kiev’s main square. While certain democratic, social and civic gains have been realized, the revolution’s outcomes are for many decidedly mixed.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Malaysia’s trial of the century put on hold

Ex-premier Najib Razak has said an impartial trial is his “best chance” to clear his name of massive corruption charges but his lawyers are pulling all stops to delay hearings


Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak’s highly anticipated corruption case, scheduled to begin hearings today (February 12), was postponed after his lawyers filed a last-ditch bid to stay what is being likened to the nation’s trial of the century.

Harvinderjit Singh, one of Najib’s lawyers, told reporters on February 11 that the Court of Appeal had agreed to postpone the trial until an appeal is heard on a court jurisdiction issue. No new date for the trial or the appeal has been set.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas had earlier argued that the stay application should be rejected because Najib’s case is of public interest. Justice Ahmadi Haji Asnawi nonetheless granted the stay application, but called for the appeal process to be expedited.

When the trial finally begins, it will be the first of several criminal proceedings against the former premier over various corruption charges linked to a globe-spanning financial scandal that saw billions of dollars stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state development fund, some of which was traced to his bank accounts.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Najib plays comeback kid as 1MDB trial looms

Scandal-plagued ex-premier is weaponizing social media to reinvent himself as a man of the people


Malaysia’s scandal-plagued former premier Najib Razak is down but clearly not out. At least that’s the message he apparently hoped to send by aggressively campaigning in a by-election held late last month that saw the former ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition clinch a rousing victory after being toppled in last May’s general election.

Ramli Mohd Nor, a 61-year-old former police officer and BN candidate, became the first candidate from the indigenous Orang Asli community ever elected to Parliament after a January 26 vote in the Cameron Highlands constituency. It was Najib, however, who stole the limelight in a race widely seen as a testing ground for his political comeback.

Since his electoral ouster, Najib has leveraged social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to relentlessly criticize the ruling Pakatan Harapan government’s policies and leaders. It’s a bid to reinvent himself as a champion of the working class, all while facing trial for his alleged involvement in the biggest corruption case in Malaysia’s history.

Najib, 65, has been charged with 42 counts of graft, money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust, mostly tied to a sprawling corruption scandal that saw an estimated US$4.5 billion stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a now-defunct state fund he established in 2009 and oversaw as advisory board chairman.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.