Trump Organization Convicted Of Tax Fraud In New York

In this file photo taken on November 26, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after participating in a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the United States Military, at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 26, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after participating in a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the United States Military, at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

 

Donald Trump’s family business was found guilty of tax fraud by a New York jury Tuesday, dealing a blow to the ex-president as he eyes the White House again.

The Trump Organization and separate entity the Trump Payroll Corp were found guilty on all counts, marking the first time the companies had ever been convicted of crimes.

“This was a case about greed and cheating,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who prosecuted the case.

Trump himself was not charged but the fact the sprawling real-estate, hotel and golf business that bears his name is now a convicted felon is likely to inflict damage to his reputation as he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024.

The two entities were convicted of running a 13-year-scheme to defraud and evade taxes by falsifying business records. In all, they were found guilty on 17 counts.

Jurors agreed with prosecutors that the Trump Organization — currently run by Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump — hid compensation it paid to top executives between 2005 and 2021.

Longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, had already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, and testified against his former company as part of a plea bargain. He did not implicate Trump during the trial.

A close friend of the Trump family, the 75-year-old Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

According to his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial, which started in October.

Trump, posting on his social media platform, said the Trump Organization bore no responsibility for “Weisselberg committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns.”

Under the headline “Manhattan Witch Hunt!” Trump said no benefit accrued to the company from Weisselberg’s actions, and that neither he nor any employees were “allowed to legally view” the CFO’s returns.

Trump said he was “disappointed with the verdict” and will appeal.

Rape case

Trump’s company faces a fine of around $1.5 million, a paltry sum to the billionaire real estate developer.

It’s symbolic though as he battles a host of legal and congressional probes that will likely complicate his run for a second presidential term, announced in Florida last month.

Trump and his three eldest children face a trial late next year in a civil lawsuit by New York’s attorney general that accuses them of misstating the value of properties to enrich themselves.

Prosecutor Letitia James has requested that Trump pay at least $250 million in penalties — a sum she says he made from the fraud — and that his family be banned from running businesses in the state.

James, a Democrat, hailed Tuesday’s verdict.

“We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets,” she said.

Trump has been ordered to testify in April 2023 as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her in the 1990s.

He is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

China Police Deploy High-Tech Tools To Crush Protests

 

Chinese police have deployed sophisticated surveillance tools in a push to stamp out a nationwide wave of unrest, using facial recognition software and location data to track down and detain protesters.

Frustration over prolonged Covid restrictions has boiled over, triggering protests demanding an end to lockdowns and greater political freedoms at a scale unseen in decades.

As Beijing announced a crackdown against the protests, its vast security apparatus swung into gear, using state-of-the-art surveillance to track down activists, according to a human rights lawyer offering free legal advice to protesters.

“In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, police have seemingly used very high-tech methods,” said Wang Shengsheng, a lawyer based in the city of Zhengzhou.

“In other cities, it seems like they have relied on surveillance footage and facial recognition,” she told AFP.

Beijing police may have used phone location data either captured from on-site scanners or Covid health codes scanned by people taking taxis to areas where protests took place, she said.

“Many callers from Beijing were confused as to why they were contacted by police when they genuinely just walked past the protest site and didn’t take part,” she added.

“We have no idea how exactly they did this.”

Crackdown

Wang has received over 20 calls in recent days from protesters or people whose friends and relatives have been detained. Most detentions she was told about lasted under 24 hours.

Protesters who contacted Wang for help have been targeted too, she said.

In Shanghai, police have confiscated the phones of all those she was in touch with and who were summoned for questioning, “perhaps to extract all their data”, she added.

Callers from Guangdong told Wang that their accounts on the encrypted Telegram messaging app were hacked after they registered ID documents with police en route to a protest.

Some friends of detained Beijing protesters also told her they saw their friends’ Telegram accounts active while they were in custody, suggesting police may have been accessing them.

Wiping out the evidence

Encrypted protesters’ chat groups — only accessible in China with illegal VPN software — are on high alert for police infiltrators as news spreads of further arrests and intimidation.

Participants have been urging each other to wipe all evidence of the protests — including chat histories, videos and photos — from their phones in anticipation of police checks.

One Beijing resident told AFP that two friends who attended protests in Shanghai and Beijing were detained on Sunday and Tuesday respectively.

The Shanghai protester was released on Monday evening but their phone remains in police hands, he said, asking to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

On highly surveilled Chinese social media apps, any users posting protest content can be easily tracked down as platforms require real-name registration.

“Phone and social media sweeps are likely ongoing in physical spaces and virtual communities,” said Rui Zhong, a China analyst at the Wilson Center in Washington.

AFP journalists saw multiple police officers filming protesters with small handheld cameras at Sunday’s Beijing rally.

One protester told AFP that she and five friends were called by local police after they attended Sunday’s rally at a riverbank in the city’s embassy district.

She later told AFP she was summoned to the police station Tuesday to write a declaration of what happened, but got turned away after not having a recent Covid test result.

‘You don’t have any privacy’

Encrypted chat group users are sharing tips and legal advice on what to do in case they are interrogated, arrested or have their phones confiscated by police.

In Shanghai, an AFP reporter witnessed multiple arrests and confirmed that police had forcibly checked one protester’s phone for foreign social media apps blocked in China which have been used to spread information about the protests.

“What’s the right to privacy? You don’t have any privacy,” a police officer said to a 17-year-old Shanghai protester during a Monday altercation, according to an audio recording he provided.

Many attendees were first-time protesters who lacked the experience and organisation necessary to build cohesive social movements, according to some protesters who spoke with AFP.

“When people go missing or are killed in ordinary criminal cases, we don’t see such high-tech tracking technologies,” said Wang.

“But in public protests, we appear to see sophisticated digital technologies being used.”

“I feel very sad, because we have such effective technology but it’s being used in the wrong place.”

“If our phones can be seized and manipulated at will, if our accounts can be logged onto (without our consent), what freedom do we have left?”

Protester Shot By Hong Kong Police Jailed For Six Years

Police fire tear gas at protesters on Hennessy Road, in Hong Kong on August 31, 2019,

 

A Hong Kong man shot by police at point-blank range during democracy protests in 2019 was jailed for six years Wednesday on charges that included trying to snatch the firearm that wounded him.

Chow Pak-kwan, 23, lost his right kidney and was injured in his liver and spine after a traffic cop shot him at a road intersection amid clashes between protesters and the authorities.

Footage of the incident showed an officer drawing his gun, pointing it at protesters blocking the road, grappling with one of them and eventually firing at Chow, who was unarmed.

Judge Adriana Noelle Tse Ching sentenced Chow to six years in jail for attempted robbery, obstructing a police officer and attempting to escape from custody.


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The judge said Chow’s attempt to grab the officer’s gun could have inflamed the crowd’s emotions and was a factor contributing to the lengthy sentence.

Another defendant in the case, Woo Tsz-kin, 22, was also jailed for six years after being found guilty of obstructing a police officer and attempted robbery.

The protest took place near the height of Hong Kong’s citywide protests three years ago, which began in opposition to a proposed extradition bill before growing to include calls for greater freedoms.

Rights activists have criticised police for using excessive force to quell protests, with Chow’s shooting sometimes cited as an example.

Police have insisted that officers were acting in accordance with the law and following internal protocols.

As of August, Hong Kong had arrested nearly 10,300 people over the 2019 democracy protests and have prosecuted or initiated legal proceedings against 2,900 of them, according to police.

US Militia Leader Guilty Of Sedition In Capitol Assault

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 9, 2022 Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, is seen on a screen during a House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol, in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) / NO USE AFTER DECEMBER 29, 2022 22:14:15 GMT

 

 

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was found guilty of sedition on Tuesday for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Another member of the Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs, was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy while three other co-defendants were acquitted of the same charge, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The verdict capped a nearly two-month, high-stakes trial in which the government sought to prove that the violent January 6 assault, which temporarily halted Joe Biden’s confirmation as president, amounted to a rebellion against the government by Trump backers.


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The five were the first of the nearly 800 people accused in the uprising to go on trial for the hefty charge.

The Justice Department said Rhodes and the Oath Keepers “concocted a plan for an armed rebellion… plotting to oppose by force the government of the United States.”

Prosecutors showed videos of the attack by dozens of group members dressed in military-style combat gear.

But the defendants characterized the case as a political trial carried out by the Biden administration against supporters of his predecessor, Trump.

Comoros Ex-President Sambi Jailed For Life For ‘High Treason’

Former Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi (2nd R), escorted by Gendarmes, arrives at the courthouse in Moroni on November 21, 2022. Sambi, who served as president from 2006-2011 and is the main opponent of current leader Azali Assoumani, has been held under house arrest since May 2018.

 

A court in the Comoros on Monday handed down a life sentence for high treason to ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who was convicted of selling passports to stateless people living in the Gulf.

Sambi, 64, an arch rival of President Azali Assoumani, was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose rulings cannot be appealed.

“He betrayed the mission entrusted to him by the Comorians,” public prosecutor Ali Mohamed Djounaid told the court last week as he requested a life sentence.


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Sambi, who led the small Indian Ocean archipelago between 2006 and 2011, pushed through a law in 2008 allowing the sale of passports for high fees.

The scheme aimed at the so-called bidoon — an Arab minority numbering in the tens of thousands who cannot obtain citizenship.

The former president was accused of embezzling millions of dollars under the scheme.

The prosecution said the cost was more than $1.8 billion — more than the impoverished nation’s GDP.

“They gave thugs the right to sell Comorian nationality as if they were selling peanuts,” said Eric Emmanuel Sossa, a lawyer for civilian plaintiffs.

But Sambi’s French lawyer Jean-Gilles Halimi said “no evidence” of missing money or bank accounts had been put forward to suggest a crime.

Sambi refused to attend the trial after a brief appearance at the first hearing, as his lawyers said there were no guarantees he would be judged fairly.

He was originally prosecuted for corruption, but the charges were reclassified as high treason, a crime that “does not exist in Comorian law,” Halimi said.

Sambi had already spent four years behind bars before he faced trial, far exceeding the maximum eight months. He was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.

UK Top Court Rejects Scottish Independence Vote Plans

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a press conference in Edinburgh on November 23, 2022 after the Supreme Court blocked a new vote on independence. The UK Supreme Court rejected a bid by the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh to hold a new referendum on independence without the consent of London. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

 

Britain’s highest court on Wednesday rejected a bid by the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh to hold a new referendum on independence without London’s consent.

The unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court torpedoed the Scottish nationalist government’s push to hold a second plebiscite next year.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), said she respected the ruling, but accused Westminster of showing “contempt” for Scotland’s democratic will.

Scotland’s government will instead treat the next UK general election due by early 2025 as a “de facto referendum” on separation, she told a news conference.

“We must and we will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will. In my view, that can only be an election,” she added.

Outside the court, David Simpson, 70, who first voted for the SNP in 1970, said he was still hopeful of achieving independence in the future.

“This is not the end of the road,” he told AFP. “There is nothing impossible.”

Alister Jack, the UK government’s secretary of state for Scotland, welcomed the ruling.

“People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating all attention and resources on the issues that matter most to them,” he said.

‘Mandate’

The Supreme Court’s Scottish president, Robert Reed, said the power to call a referendum was “reserved” to the UK parliament under Scotland’s devolution settlement.

Therefore “the Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence”, Reed said.

Sturgeon’s SNP-led government in Edinburgh wanted to hold a vote next October on the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The UK government, which oversees constitutional affairs for the whole country, has repeatedly refused to give Edinburgh the power to hold a referendum.

It considers that the last one — in 2014, when 55 percent of Scots rejected independence — settled the question for a generation.

But Sturgeon and her party say there is now an “indisputable mandate” for another independence referendum, particularly in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Most voters in Scotland opposed Brexit.

Scotland’s last parliamentary election returned a majority of pro-independence lawmakers for the first time.

Opinion polls, however, indicate only a slight lead for those in favour of a split.

At the UK Supreme Court last month, lawyers for the government in London argued that the Scottish government could not decide to hold a referendum on its own.

Permission had to be granted because the constitutional make-up of the four nations of the United Kingdom was a reserved matter for the government in London.

Scotland not Kosovo

Lawyers for the Scottish government wanted a ruling on the rights of the devolved parliament in Edinburgh if London continued to block an independence referendum.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, Scotland’s top law officer, said Scottish independence was a “live and significant” issue in Scottish politics.

The Scottish government was seeking to create its own legal framework for another referendum, arguing that the “right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right”.

But the Supreme Court rejected international comparisons raised by the SNP, which had likened Scotland to Quebec or Kosovo.

Reed said that international law on self-determination only applied to former colonies, or where a people is oppressed by military occupation, or when a defined group is denied its political and civil rights.

None of that applied to Scotland, the Supreme Court president said.

He also rejected the SNP’s argument that a referendum would only be “advisory” and not legally binding.

Any such vote would carry “important political consequences” regardless of its legal status, the judge said.

Sturgeon’s SNP ran in the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections on a promise to hold a legally valid referendum after the Covid crisis subsided.

Trump Gets Warm Reception At Republican Gathering As Rivals Lash Out

 

Donald Trump received a standing ovation at a Republican Party gathering Saturday, even as several possible White House rivals lashed out at his election denialism and insisted it was time to move on from the former US president.

In his first major appearance since announcing his intention to run again in 2024, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas that the party had grown under his leadership.

The 76-year-old falsely insisted once again that the 2020 presidential election — which he lost — was rigged, and rejected responsibility for the GOP’s poor performance in the November midterms.

In 2020 “we had a really disgraceful election, many millions of votes more than we had in 2016… and the result was, in my opinion, an absolute sham,” he told the audience by video link.

“The election as rigged, and it’s too bad it was.”

Asked about how he could improve the party’s appeal to suburban voters, among whom it did badly in this month’s midterms, Trump insisted he had a record of picking winners.

“In the midterms, as you’ve probably heard, I was 222 wins and 16 losses, the press doesn’t want to mention that, and the Republican Party got five million more votes than the Democrats,” he said, despite the final vote tallies not yet being finalized.

“The Republican Party is a much bigger and more powerful party than it was before I got there,” he said.

Trump was warmly welcomed by the crowd, which had earlier heard from key party figures whose names are often mentioned as possibly 2024 presidential contenders.

Many of them hit out at Trump’s grievance-laden style of politicking, which Republican Party operatives have said was to blame for their tepid showing on November 8.

‘Joy and a smile’

New Jersey’s former governor and one-time Trump confidante Chris Christie said candidate quality had been the issue.

“Donald Trump picked candidates with one criteria. Not electability, not experience, not wisdom, not charisma, not the ability to govern, but ‘do you believe the 2020 election was stolen or not?’ If you do I endorse you. If you don’t I reject you,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is the reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”

Chris Sununu, governor of New Hampshire, agreed.

“I got a great policy for the Republican Party. Let’s stop supporting crazy unelectable candidates in our primaries,” he said.

On Friday evening, Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who is also understood to be mulling a run at the White House, urged fellow Republicans to be more forward-looking and more positive.

While he did not mention his old boss by name, Pompeo made none-too-subtle digs about the need to be doers, rather than complainers.

“As we present the conservative case, as we make the argument… we do so with joy, and a smile,” he said.

“We don’t simply rail against the machine… we don’t simply go on Fox News or send tweets, we actually do the hard work.”

Trump did not address the potential rivals in his appearance on Saturday, but has already begun his customary bomb-throwing about potential presidential competitors, dubbing Ron DeSantis, who is set to speak later Saturday, “Ron DeSanctimonious” and saying Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s name “sounds Chinese.”

The gathering, which also featured an address by Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, runs until Sunday.

Elon Musk Gleeful As Twitter Users Vote On Reinstating Trump

Elon Musk and a Twitter illustration

 

Elon Musk expressed excitement Saturday as he watched votes pour in on a Twitter poll he has posted on whether to readmit Donald Trump to the messaging platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” the billionaire Twitter owner posted Friday, with a chance to vote either yes or no.

As of 2200 GMT Saturday, 51.8 percent of the more than 14 million responses were in favor of a return of the former president, who was banned from Twitter for his role in last year’s attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his followers seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Musk said the poll was drawing one million answers per hour.

“Fascinating to watch Twitter Trump poll!” Musk said Saturday morning in a blast of tweets from the controversial and hard-charging new owner of the one-to-many messaging platform.


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There was no indication that the mercurial boss of Space-X and Tesla would adhere to the results of the ad hoc poll.

But on Friday, Musk also posted a Latin adage suggesting that the decision would be up to Twitter users: “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (“The voice of the people is the voice of God”).

He has done similar polls in the past, asking followers last year if he should sell stock in his electric car company Tesla. Following that poll, he sold more than $1 billion in shares.

Trump, who reveled in using Twitter as a mouthpiece, was followed by more than 88 million users.

He has said he will not return to the popular platform but would instead remain on his own network, Truth Social, launched after he was banned from Twitter.

Appearing via video Saturday at a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Trump said he welcomed Musk’s poll, and was a fan of the man himself, but appeared to reject any return.

“I do like him… you know, he’s a character and again, I like characters,” he said.

“He did put up a poll and it was very overwhelming… but I have something called… Truth Social.”

As to whether he would return to the platform, he said: “I don’t see it because I don’t see any reason for it.”

Musk, also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has come under fire for radical changes at California-based Twitter, which he bought less than a month ago for $44 billion.

Since then, he fired half of Twitter’s 7,500 staff, scrapped a work-from-home policy and imposed long hours, all while his attempts to overhaul the company faced backlash and delays.

His stumbling attempts to revamp user verification with a controversial subscription service led to a slew of fake accounts and pranks, and prompted major advertisers to step away from the platform.

On Friday, Musk appeared to be pressing on with his plans and reinstated previously banned accounts, including that of comedian Kathy Griffin, which had been taken down after she impersonated him on the site.

The company’s offices were locked down Friday and hundreds of employees quit rather than yield to Musk’s demands that they resign themselves to working long, grueling days at the new Twitter.

Israel’s Netanyahu To Receive Mandate To Form Government

Israel’s ex-premier and leader of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters at campaign headquarters in Jerusalem early on November 2, 2022, after the end of voting for national elections. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

 

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will receive an official mandate Sunday to form a government that could be the most right-wing in the country’s history, sparking concern at home and abroad.

After a period of unprecedented political gridlock that forced five elections in less than four years, polls on November 1 gave the veteran leader and his far-right allies a clear majority in the 120-seat parliament, likely sealing Netanyahu’s return to power.

Sixty-four lawmakers recommended that President Isaac Herzog appoint Netanyahu to form a government, a presidency statement said Friday, following several days of consultations.

The former premier has been summoned “to accept the task of forming the government from the president on Sunday”, it added.

He will have 28 days to form a cabinet, with a 14-day extension available if required.

Netanyahu led Israel from 1996 to 1999 and then again from 2009 to 2021 in a record tenure in office.

His right-wing Likud party and its allies — two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and the extreme-right Religious Zionism bloc — won 64 seats in the Knesset, enabling Netanyahu to form a stable governing coalition.

The 73-year-old remains on trial over corruption allegations, which he denies.

‘Worried’

The presidency statement said 28 lawmakers had instead recommended Herzog tap Netanyahu’s centrist rival, outgoing premier Yair Lapid.

Four parties — including Mansour Abbas’s Arab-led Islamist Raam, which made history by supporting Lapid’s coalition government last year — refused to recommend any candidate.

Netanyahu will likely have to juggle demands from his extreme-right allies for policy commitments and cabinet posts, but is not expected to face insurmountable challenges during the coalition negotiations.

Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, co-leaders of the Religious Zionism bloc, have publicly demanded control of two key ministries — public security and defence.

Ben-Gvir, a firebrand known for anti-Arab rhetoric and incendiary calls for Israel to annex the entire West Bank, has repeatedly urged for the security services to use more force in countering Palestinian unrest.

Violence has soared between Israel and the Palestinians, and recent months have been the deadliest period in years in the Israeli-occupied West Bank according to the United Nations, with near daily army raids and an increase in clashes and attacks on Israeli forces.

‘Repugnant’

The electoral success of Religious Zionism has raised fears among its political opponents and Arab-Israelis, who for years have been at the receiving end of Ben-Gvir’s vitriol.

The US on Thursday labelled Ben-Gvir “repugnant” after he appeared at a memorial event for a Jewish extremist.

Herzog, whose role is largely symbolic, was reported to have tried to convince Lapid and his defense minister Benny Gantz to form a unity cabinet with Netanyahu, in order to keep Ben-Gvir from entering government.

The presidency publicly denied the claims.

But Herzog was caught sending a warning about Ben-Gvir.

“You have a partner who the entire world around us is worried about,” he said this week following a meeting with ultra-Orthodox leaders, apparently unaware his microphone was switched on.

He also told Ben-Gvir Thursday that “there is a certain image of you and your party which seems, and I’ll say it in all honesty, worrying in many regards.”

He said he had received “questions from Israeli citizens and world leaders… very sensitive questions on human rights”.

Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party — which was invigorated after winning 11 seats — is also expected to play a major role in the government, with his eyes on either the interior or finance ministries, according to Israeli media.

Deri was convicted of tax evasion in 2021, and was previously jailed for fraud.

The new administration is expected to make judicial reform a key priority, as it moves to redress what it has condemned as an activist, leftist agenda of Israeli judges.

Netanyahu Eyes Return To Power As Israel Votes Yet Again

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to the Tikva market in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2022, ahead of the November general elections. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

 

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is eyeing a return to power when the country holds its fifth election in four years Tuesday, his chances potentially boosted by the rise of the extreme-right.

The longest-serving leader in Israeli history, the 73-year-old right-winger and security hawk is for the first time in years campaigning from the opposition.

He is up against the centrist caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who last year manoeuvred a motley alliance of eight parties into a coalition that managed to oust Netanyahu from power.

Lapid sails into the November 1 election just days after a diplomatic breakthrough — finalising a landmark maritime border deal with foe Lebanon that unlocks offshore gas riches for both sides.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is hoping his record 15 years in power can convince the electorate that only he has the necessary experience to lead the country, despite his ongoing corruption trial.

The polls have Netanyahu’s Likud emerging as the largest party in parliament, the Knesset — but in a political system dominated by coalitions, his path to the premiership is far from certain.

Even while the ballots are still being counted, both leaders are likely to enter intense negotiations with smaller parties as they seek to reach the 61 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.

For Netanyahu that means rekindling his longstanding ties to the ultra-Orthodox, while he has also courted the extreme-right alliance of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

The duo’s Religious Zionism alliance is surging in the polls and could clinch third place, more than doubling its current six seats.

The backing of the extreme-right could serve as Netanyahu’s ticket back into high office, a move which would likely come in exchange for handing significant powers to Ben-Gvir.

‘Crisis of confidence’

With Lapid’s Yesh Atid party behind Likud in the polls, one of his aides said he “wants to make sure Netanyahu does not get these 61 (seats) with his allies”.

Such a strategy means both convincing Israelis to turn away from the Likud leader and making sure that his potential allies win votes.

Under Israel’s electoral system, parties need to win a minimum of four seats to make it into parliament.

“Lapid is trying to say that he is the only one who can bring together the anti-Netanyahu members of the Knesset,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“He has to make sure his potential partners are getting above the threshold,” she added.

Multiple parties are teetering on the four-seat threshold, notably all three Arab-led groups which have previously opposed Netanyahu.

Mansour Abbas, leader of Raam which became the first Arab party to join a ruling coalition last year, told AFP there is a “crisis of confidence with the Arab public”.

Arab-Israelis make up around 20 percent of the population and if their turnout falls, as expected, Netanyahu’s bloc could win more seats.

Netanyahu’s future

Overall Israeli turnout is expected to remain relatively high, despite voters being “absolutely fatigued” according to veteran pollster Dahlia Scheindlin.

As with the last four polls held since April 2019, the political crisis will not end with election day.

Coalition talks can take weeks and, if they fail, there is a chance the electorate will soon go to the polls yet again.

Scheindlin said voters “haven’t changed their minds significantly over the last few cycles”, but that their leaders’ positions could shift.

“What is different is the shape of the parties and possibly the decisions of the party leaders who will have to decide which coalitions to go into,” she said.

“That changes from election to election, it could change this time too.”

The outcome of this latest vote may have wider consequences for Netanyahu who is fighting corruption charges.

Securing the premiership could pave the way for Netanyahu to seek immunity from prosecution, with the backing of Religious Zionism which is vowing to overhaul the justice system.

If he remains in opposition, he could “negotiate a plea bargain” according to Talshir.

After releasing a memoir this month, she said, Netanyahu after decades on the political stage may be “preparing the ground for his departure”.

We Must Practise Politics Without Bitterness – Seyi Makinde

File photo of Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde.

 

Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Thursday called on political actors in the country to practice politics void of bitterness and rancour.

He made the call in Osun State during the flag-off of the reconstruction and selective expansion of the 91 kilometers Osogbo-Iwo-Ibadan-Iwo Road Interchange.

The project, which is to be completed in 18 months, is as collaboration between Makinde and his Osun counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola. It was awarded to Messrs Peculiar Ultimate Concerns.

He maintained that the two governors have been able to lead a revolution and collaboration that put the people of the two states first, and relegated politics and partisanship to the background while delivering dividends of good governance to the people.

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“We must practise politics of justice and fairness without bitterness and rancour,” the Oyo Governor was quoted in a statement by his spokesman, Taiwo Adisa.

“The revolution we are leading in Oyo State is a revolution of thought. Again, we are saying, governance must always trump politics. When we make decisions, we must always put the interests of our people first.

“Of course, you already know that my brother, the Governor of Osun State is from the All Progressives Congress (APC), while I belong to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite this difference, we have accomplished things that people from the same party were unable to do. This is the revolution we are talking about.”

In his remark, Oyetola commended Makinde for rising above political differences and considerations to collaborate with the Osun State government to ensure that the laudable project comes to fruition and to further entrench regional integration.

He maintained that the project is a dream come true, as it is part of his government’s effort “to provide quality roads on an equitable basis and entrench sustainable economic development.”

Oyetola said, “I salute the political sagacity and astuteness of the Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde, who rose above all political differences and considerations to collaborate with us to not only ensure that this laudable project comes to fruition, but to further entrench regional integration.

“When the project was initially conceptualised, our plan was to fix the Osogbo-Iwo section that belongs to Osun. We, however, on second thought observed that the Oyo State section too was in very bad shape and capable of defeating the objective of our road Reconstruction/Rehabilitation effort.

“Consequently, we reached out to Governor Makinde and, without hesitation; he embarked on this invaluable voyage with us.”

Rishi Sunak, Set To Be The UK’s First Hindu PM

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak waves as he arrives at Conservative Party Headquarters in central London having been announced as the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest, on October 24, 2022. AFP

 

 

Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives’ new leader, has capped a stunning political comeback that marks a dramatic rise to power for the son of immigrants from Britain’s old empire.

Liz Truss’s political implosion after just 44 days in office allowed the former finance minister to become the first prime minister of colour.

“Indian son rises over the empire,” read a headline on the Indian news channel NDTV, adding: “History comes full circle in Britain.”

At 42, Sunak will also become the youngest prime minister of modern times once he is confirmed in office by King Charles III.

The former hedge fund investor, an observant Hindu, failed in the summer to persuade the Tory grassroots that he was a better option than Truss.

But having correctly predicted her economic agenda would spark turmoil, he was able to throw his hat into the ring for a second time.

After securing the public support of more than half of Conservative MPs, his only remaining challenger Penny Mordaunt was forced to withdraw — following the failure of former leader Boris Johnson’s own bid.

Fabulously rich from his previous career in finance, Sunak faces daunting challenges in power, from an economic crisis to uniting his fractious party.

Some within it remain highly critical of Sunak, viewing him as disloyal for triggering the downfall of Johnson in July.

He has also been mocked as out of touch with Britons struggling with decades-high inflation — perhaps best symbolised by wearing expensive Prada loafers to a construction site visit on the summer campaign trail.

Video footage also emerged of a 21-year-old Sunak — educated at Winchester College, an exclusive private school, and the University of Oxford — talking about his friends.

“I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper-class, I have friends who are, you know, working-class,” he says, before adding: “Well, not working-class.”

‘Dishy Rishi’

Rishi Sunak, Britain’s former chancellor of the exchequer and candidate to become the next prime minister, delivers a speech at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London on July 12, 2022. Conservative party said, with 11 hopefuls currently vying for the job. (Photo by Niklas HALLE’N / AFP)

A details-oriented policy wonk with a background in economics, Sunak has sought to present himself as a stable choice at a time of crisis.

An early backer of Brexit, he took over as chancellor of the exchequer in February 2020 — a baptism of fire for the Tory rising star as the Covid pandemic erupted.

He was forced to craft an enormous economic support package at breakneck speed, which he now insists must be paid off with sound fiscal plans.

In India, Sunak is better known through his wife, Akshata Murty. She is the daughter of Indian tycoon Narayana Murthy, the billionaire co-founder of information technology group Infosys.

The Sunaks met while studying in California and they have two young daughters, along with a photogenic dog.

The ex-minister’s Instagram-friendly profile earned him the media nickname of “Dishy Rishi”.

Until last year, he held a US Green Card — which critics said suggested a lack of long-term loyalty to Britain.

And he has been dogged by difficult questions over Murty’s failure until recently to pay UK taxes on her Infosys returns, which opinion polls suggest was viewed with deep disfavour by voters.

Sunak has also been damaged by the scandals of Johnson’s tumultuous premiership.

He ended up with a police fine for breaching Covid rules after joining a birthday gathering for the then-prime minister at Downing Street.

Johnson was also fined following an investigation into the “Partygate” affair.

Along with the controversy over his family fortune, the scandal sullied the reputation of the teetotal Sunak, who admits only to a fondness for Coca-Cola and sugary confectioneries.

Waiter to wealth

Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Conservative MP, Rishi Sunak leaves from an office in central London on October 23, 2022. British Conservative Rishi Sunak on Sunday announced he is standing to be prime minister, just weeks after failing in a first attempt and setting up a potentially bruising battle with his former boss Boris Johnson. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

Sunak represents the constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, northern England — a safe and overwhelmingly white Conservative seat he took over in 2015 from former party leader and foreign secretary William Hague, who described him as “exceptional”.

Theresa May gave Sunak his first job in government in January 2018, making him a junior minister for local government, parks and troubled families.

Sunak’s grandparents were from Punjab in northern India and emigrated to Britain from eastern Africa in the 1960s.

They arrived with “very little”, Sunak told MPs in his maiden speech.

His father was a family doctor in Southampton on England’s south coast, and his mother ran a local pharmacy.

Sunak waited tables in a local Indian restaurant, before progressing to Oxford and then Stanford University in California.

He swears his oath of allegiance as an MP on the Hindu Bhagavad Gita.

He insists his own family’s experience, and that of his mega-rich wife’s, are a “very Conservative” story of hard work and aspiration.