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Malaysia's politics are rotten from the top – The Economist

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IN KUALA LUMPUR, the chief city, as elsewhere in Malaysia, white flags hang from windows—cries of help from households for whom the pandemic has brought economic distress and even too little to eat. For the relatively prosperous country’s success in handling the coronavirus in 2020 has turned to calamity this year, with over 1.1m infections and a tardy roll-out of vaccines.

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Among proudly middle-class Malaysians, the pandemic has crystallised how their country too often benefits mainly the well-connected. Certain factory-owners have been allowed to continue operating even during lockdowns (thus seeding infections among workers). Politicians flout health rules that carry swingeing penalties for other infringers.

In this context, the black flags that mostly young, educated Malaysians are also hanging outside their flats represent not a cry for help but a political statement: the bendera hitam, or black-flag movement, is a protest against the elites’ various failures of governance, of which the pandemic is just the most glaring. Young medical workers demand better pay and conditions, while activists call for a political promise to lower the voting age, from 21 to 18, to be kept. The hashtag #Kerajaangagal (“failed government”) is popular on social media. Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham Malaysia says such challenges represent “a new political training ground”, one confronting the old political hierarchies that have dominated for so long and that operate through patronage, corruption, colonial-era anti-sedition laws and gerrymandered elections.

It was not supposed to be this way. When the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had ruled since independence, was at last dislodged by an opposition coalition in 2018, Malaysians expected politics to change. But the new government, itself led by defectors from UMNO, proved unwieldy and fissiparous. The current prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, brought it down last year by re-defecting. He then cobbled together a new a parliamentary majority, including UMNO, through back-room machinations.

Although Mr Muhyiddin stuffed his cabinet with backers, many quickly grew disenchanted. Early this year he sought emergency powers until August 1st from the agong, or king (a handful of sultans take turns at the job). That was not only in order to deal with the pandemic, the ostensible reason, but also in order to suspend Parliament and so head off any challenge from a no-confidence vote. In late July the prime minister suspended Parliament again as soon as it had reconvened, citing infections in the building.

The move may only buy time, argues James Chin of the University of Tasmania. A rare rebuke from the king after Mr Muhyiddin unilaterally withdrew emergency ordinances—the agong declared that Parliament should have been consulted—may prove fatal. On August 3rd Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, UMNO’s leader, withdrew support for Mr Muhyiddin, so doing away with his majority. Facing down calls for his immediate resignation, on August 5th Mr Muhyiddin said the king had agreed to a no-confidence vote in September.

But anyone imagining that the opposition or even the king are chiefly motivated by the wishes of the people should think again. The mercurial Anwar Ibrahim, who for decades has eyed the top job and is chief among those calling for Mr Muhyiddin to go, has ruined his reformist credentials, not least by allying with some of UMNO’s sleaziest elements. UMNO itself appears unreformable: Mr Zahid, for one, faces 87 corruption charges. As for the hereditary sultans, their authority has flourished during the bickering and with it their huge but opaque business interests. Despite his dressing-down, Mr Muhyiddin has bent over backwards to please the current agong, the acquisitive sultan of Pahang.

Ordinary Malaysians, meanwhile, feel angry and ignored. The pandemic has emptied the exchequer and, Ms Welsh points out, revealed gaping holes in the safety net. Among the young, unemployment has reached nearly 12%. Mr Muhyiddin now hopes to get credit for a vaccination programme that is starting to pick up speed. Beyond that, little suggests the elites care to sort out popular concerns. On the contrary, bendera hitam supporters attempting to march on Parliament were stopped by police, who all too predictably are now probing the movement for evidence of sedition. There is no doubting Malaysia’s sense of crisis. Yet the stench of politics is still a long way from being cleared.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Flagging enthusiasm”

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Politics Briefing: Meet the new Parliament, same as the old Parliament – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

With remarkable precision, Canadian voters are sending MPs back to Ottawa in virtually identical numbers to the party standings in August when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a snap federal election campaign.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected Monday for a third time and a second consecutive minority government.

As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives, 34 for the Bloc Québécois, 25 for the NDP and two for the Greens. The People’s Party of Canada did not win any seats and PPC leader Maxime Bernier finished a distant second to the Conservatives in the Quebec riding of Beauce.

The Liberal gain of one will likely change as the 158 seats includes Kevin Vuong in Spadina–Fort York, who currently has a narrow lead over the NDP candidate. The Liberals disassociated themselves from him late in the campaign after a dropped sexual assault charge was revealed. Should Mr. Vuong win, he will likely sit as an independent, but the Liberal Party did not immediately comment on the situation when asked Tuesday morning.

The most dramatic statistics in Monday’s results are the projected seat changes compared to party standings in the House of Commons before the election. As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals are up one seat (including Mr. Vuong), the Conservatives are down two, the Bloc is up two, the NDP is up one and the Greens are down one.

Those statistics do mask the fact that parties saw some incumbents defeated, but made up for that with gains elsewhere.

For instance, two Liberal cabinet ministers were defeated: Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan lost to the Conservatives in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, and Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef lost to the Conservatives in Peterborough-Kawartha.

Yet the Liberals may have made two notable gains in Alberta, where it had been shut out entirely in 2019. Liberal candidate George Chahal won the riding of Calgary Skyview, while Liberal Randy Boissonnault currently has a very narrow lead in Edmonton Centre.

Given the need for regional representation, at least one of the two Liberals from Alberta would be promoted to cabinet. This would create challenges, however, for Mr. Trudeau’s efforts to have a gender-balanced cabinet.

Unlike past elections, it will take a few more days until final results are known. Elections Canada received more than one million mail-in ballots this year, which is far higher than normal. The option was promoted as an alternative for Canadians who did not wish to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said the counting of those mail-in ballots will begin Tuesday.

“We expect the vast majority to be counted and posted by tomorrow (Wednesday), but there may be further delays in some ridings,” he said in an e-mail.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Filling in today is Bill Curry. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Canada federal election results: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win third consecutive election, fall short of a majority: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a third straight election on Monday, but fell short of the majority they sought in the snap vote and will return to government with what will effectively be a status quo Parliament.

The Liberal victory left Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Conservative Party in jeopardy. The Tory leader rose to the helm of the party last year promising to deliver in seat-rich Ontario but he struggled in the campaign with questions on how he would handle the pandemic and wavered on key platform pledges.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have a minority again. What now? The new(ish) Parliament explained: After Sept. 20′s election, the balance of power in the House of Commons is largely unchanged between the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and Greens. Here’s what the results show and what leaders say they’ll do next.

After failing to secure majority, Trudeau will face questions within his caucus: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took a risky political gamble, triggering a snap election during the fourth wave of the pandemic in pursuit of a new majority mandate. He ended winning another minority mandate instead.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s ideology shift was not enough to surpass Liberals: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole steered his party back toward the ideological centre of Canadian politics in 2021 and made this shift a key selling point during the five-week election campaign. But it was not enough to win Canada’s 44th general election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will form the next government.

Jagmeet Singh still holds balance of power after 2021 federal election but NDP doesn’t make major seat gains: The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh will be returning to Ottawa with its balance of power position intact, but the party’s hopes of major seat gains came up short.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Justin Trudeau takes a selfie with a supporter at the Jarry Metro station in Montreal on Sept. 21, 2021, after the Liberals won a minority government the day before.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted commuters at a subway station in his Montreal riding of Papineau, where he was re-elected Monday. The Liberal Leader is not scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is scheduled to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. ET in Ottawa.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30 am PT (12:30 ET) in Vancouver.

Itineraries for Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party leader Annamie Paul were not immediately available.

OPINION

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party brace for an ugly war over his shift to the left: “There is little doubt Mr. O’Toole is girding for an internal fight, one that could get very loud and very messy and has the potential to lead to a complete fracture of the conservative movement.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) If this election was a test of leadership, all of them failed: “None of the front-running candidates in this election campaign ventured to engage with challenging ideas, or dared step offside of politically advantageous positions. That bodes poorly for whatever faith the public should have in the capacity of the next government, whatever its specific composition might turn out to be, to capably deal with whatever crisis comes next – be it climate change, or an aging population, or another pandemic – just as long as the tough but necessary decisions risk political penalty.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on A battle between fear and loathing that both sides lost: “Consider: Had the election been held on schedule, two years from now, the pandemic would (please God) have been long over, the mass vaccination program, with its associated mandates, a distant memory. Without the oxygen of this approaching “tyranny,” Maxime Bernier’s campaign might never have got off the ground. But call an election in the fevered atmosphere of a public-health emergency; spend the entire campaign insisting on the very policy, vaccine mandates, you had previously rejected as “divisive”; steer your campaign straight at the PPC, literally and figuratively, and who knows what profitable mayhem you can create?”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) Trudeau had just enough resilience to return to office, but doubts about his intentions remain: “He looks the same, still, at 49. But six years ago the Justin Trudeau of 2015 was a figure who for many seemed to symbolize good intentions, even for some who weren’t sure about his politics or ability. The 2021 Mr. Trudeau pulled through a campaign in which he had trouble convincing folks he had the right motivations.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) Erin O’Toole tried to refashion the Conservative movement and deserves another chance to lead: “Moderate suburban voters will support Conservative government. We know that because most provincial governments are conservative, of one stripe or another. Many would vote Conservative federally as well, if they could trust the party: a Conservative Party of fiscal responsibility and individual freedom; a party that takes pride in our country while recognizing where we have fallen short; a party that supports business but understands the vulnerability of workers, that protects property but cares for the earth. Mr. O’Toole bet big that he could build and sell such a party. It didn’t work this time. But he could still be the next prime minister, perhaps sooner rather than later.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Liberals' bank surtax is 'pandering politics': Former RBC CEO – BNN

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A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada said the federal Liberals’ plan to slap a surtax on big bank and insurance profits “makes no sense” and called the move a purely “political decision.”

“That type of policy is pandering politics,” said Gord Nixon, who is also chairman of BNN Bloomberg parent company BCE Inc., in an interview Tuesday. “It might sell well in terms of achieving votes but it doesn’t make any sense from a policy perspective.”

The Liberals proposed a three-per-cent additional tax on profits that exceed $1 billion for Canada’s biggest banks and insurance companies as a way to help pay for new program spending, although some Bay Street analysts feel the plan lacks crucial details.

Nixon implied he isn’t necessarily surprised politicians took aim at big banks given his prior experience as RBC’s CEO and president from 2001 to 2014.

“Why the banks? Other than they’re an easy target,” he said. “The banks always deal with political issues.”

He said there are a few sectors, such as technology and grocers, that fared much better than banks and insurers through the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggests the targeted tax has political undertones.

“The banks actually didn’t do very well during the pandemic. You look at the three-year returns on banks, they’re up less than five per cent. The S&P is up close to 15 per cent,” he said. “I’m not suggesting there’s hardship there. But their earnings were very strong the last two quarters, largely because they were reversing a lot of loan losses that were taken when the pandemic first hit.”

Instead of a bank tax, Nixon would rather see policies that help attract business investment and talent, something he felt the campaign platforms proposed by Canada’s major political parties lacked.

“A lot of the issues that needed to be discussed were not necessarily discussed. And I think clearly, the result is that there is no mandate, if you will, given to the Liberal Party.”

Another one of Nixon’s concerns is the ballooning federal debt burden. The Conservative Party was the only major federal party to propose bringing the budget back to balance within a decade.

“We can’t just spend and spend and push that problem down the road. One of the problems of politics – and it’s all political parties – is it’s very easy to spend when you don’t have to live with the consequences of that spending for many years down the road. But there’s always a day of reckoning,” he said. “That day of reckoning is ultimately going to appear whether it’s through higher inflation or anemic economic growth.”

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Canada election: Do federal results affect provincial politics? – Global News

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A blue wave swept across the Prairies once again.

The Conservative Party won every riding between the eastern Manitoba border and western limit of Alberta, including all Saskatchewan constituencies, with the exception of 11 on Monday’s federal election.

It’s not the total seizure the Conservatives saw in 2019, but Premier Scott Moe, speaking Tuesday, still rejoiced at the result.

Read more:
Erin O’Toole disappointed after election loss, triggers campaign review

“In what I saw in the result last night, 90 per cent of Saskatchewan residents don’t want Justin Trudeau to be their prime minister,” he said, taking care to criticize the Liberal leader for what he said was an unnecessary election.

He began his brief statement with an anecdote — or, perhaps, a joke — about how his nephew said he wasn’t having a good birthday because Trudeau was still Prime Minister.

A University of Saskatchewan political scientist said the results weren’t a surprise, even in the hotly-contested Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River and Saskatoon West ridings. But Daniel Westlake cautions that the strong Conservative showing doesn’t necessarily mean support for conservative governments in the same region.

“If I was an Alberta provincial conservative, I’d be a lot more nervous than if I was an Alberta federal conservative right now. And the same for Saskatchewan,” Daniel Westlake said.

Things look very different for the respective legislatures than the do the in House of Commons. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sacked his health minister for a disastrous response to the fourth wave of COVID-19 on the same day Moe used a 10-year-old’s birthday to take a swing at Trudeau.

And Brian Pallister vacated the premier’s position in Winnipeg after facing similar, severe criticisms over the pandemic and other matters.

Front-line health-care workers in Saskatchewan have criticized Moe for his responses to COVID.

Global News asked him about dissonance between the federal election results and his fellow premiers’ political fortunes.

Read more:
Other parties gain ground on Conservatives in federal Lethbridge riding

“I’m not sure I precisely understand the question,” he said, before stating, “we had 14 Conservative seats going into this election. There’s were 14 Conservative seats going out.”

Westlake said the ridings and races affect whether political support overlaps.

Of the nearly dozen seats the Tories lost, all but one were urban and suburban and in major centres like Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg.

Conservatives don’t usually do well — or at least as well — in urban centres as they do in rural ridings, Westlake pointed out.

And the fact there are more of those ridings in the more populated provinces provides more opportunity.


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Trudeau bills electoral win as ‘clear mandate’ in speech to supporters'



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Canada election: Trudeau bills electoral win as ‘clear mandate’ in speech to supporters


Canada election: Trudeau bills electoral win as ‘clear mandate’ in speech to supporters

But the main distinction Westlake makes is in the campaign. Party leaders at different levels talk about different issues.

“The opponents that Erin O’Toole faces in Saskatchewan also have to win ridings in Vancouver and Toronto and places that hold views that are very different from the rest of the province,” he said.

A party leader seeking the broad support needed to garner a plurality of seats at the federal level will (and did, in this case) lose out on seats in specific areas because the broader policies aren’t as appealing, Westlake explained.

He said the Saskatchewan NDP, or any provincial opposition party, can tailor their message to voters in a way federal leaders can’t.

“If I were Scott Moore, I wouldn’t read too much into this,” he said.

“The reality is provincial elections are different than federal elections, especially on the Prairies.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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