Ukrainians were voting Sunday in local elections that are considered a test for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last year vowing to bring peace, uproot endemic corruption and shore up a worsening economy. Zelenskiy was elected president by a landslide in April 2019 after campaigning on promises to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in the country's east. Despite his lack of prior political experience, he quickly cemented his grip on power by calling a parliamentary election that resulted in his party winning a strong majority.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Six years ago Scotland voted by a 10-point margin to stay part of the U.K. Yet the last nine consecutive opinion polls show the backing for leave as high as 58 per cent, and averaging at 53 per cent. This sustained lead for independence spells trouble for Boris Johnson’s government, which fears demands for a second referendum will become overwhelming.The Scottish National Party is expected to sweep to victory in local elections in May 2021, giving it an outright majority in the Edinburgh Assembly. The SNP has already been trying in the Scottish courts to circumvent a Johnson veto on another referendum. Whatever happens, the nationalists will ramp up their provocations.Last week Bloomberg 新世代自取點 revealed that Hanbury Strategy, a consultancy firm close to the Conservatives, had drawn up a detailed plan for ministers to defeat the nationalists. The main tidbit in the leaked memo was the advice that the government should “coopt the European Union” into arguing that an independent Scotland would struggle to rejoin the bloc. That would be an embarrassing last resort for an administration hellbent on Brexit, with or without a trade deal. The EU wouldn’t easily be coopted by Johnson.The last independence referendum was meant to settle the issue of the Union for a generation. Yet now it’s in peril again. The threat has international ramifications.The end of the United Kingdom would raise a question about Britain’s standing in the world, a deeper one than that posed by Brexit. If Northern Ireland were ever to vote to join the Irish republic, the damage could be limited: The status of the North has been unsettled since partition in 1921. But if Scotland were to secede that would be the end of the extraordinarily successful 307-year-old partnership that created the British Empire and fought two world wars.Post-independence, London would lose its Scottish nuclear submarine bases and its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council might be challenged. The rump U.K. would be diminished, in self-confidence and size.Independence would impoverish the Scots, too. That argument clinched the vote last time and its force has redoubled since Covid-19. Sooner or later the Conservatives must make it again. But is Johnson the right man to do it?Before the pandemic, the Treasury in London already subsidized Edinburgh by up to 12 billion pounds ($13 billion) a year. Scotland’s implicit budget deficit pre-crisis was 8.6% of gross domestic product, about 6 percentage points higher than the U.K. as a whole, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Post-Covid, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates those numbers could balloon to a 19% implicit deficit. Total borrowing was already equivalent to £2,776 per person in Scotland as opposed to £855 for the U.K.Pre-Covid even the SNP’s own Sustainable Growth Commission proposed holding down growth in public spending to 0.5%, “implying cuts to areas other than health, social care and pensions.” Post-Covid that would mean sharp tax increases and spending cuts.As it stands, London’s subsidies play into the nationalists’ hands, allowing them to implement popular — and expensive — policies. They bankroll spending on services that are largely devolved to the Scottish government: the abolition of prescription charges, university tuition fees and free personal care for the elderly. Scotland spends 22% more per person on education than England, with no better results. Some 10 percent of Scottish pupils are thought not to have been in education regularly since the start of the Covid outbreak.Even if Scotland gained EU admission — a big if given Europe’s fear of encouraging separatists — the country would have a hard border with the rest of the U.K. over which 60% of its exports flow.Yet heart can overrule head when the self-determination of a proud people is the issue.There are three reasons for the recent pro-independence surge. Scots voted against Brexit by almost two to one and were dismayed by their vastly more populous southern neighbor’s decision to leave. That has pushed many pro-Europeans into the independence camp. Second, not since Margaret Thatcher has an English Conservative been so disliked north of the border as Johnson. His louche, blustering image doesn’t sit well with puritan Scots. Scottish Tories ask whether his heart is in Unionism or English nationalism.Lastly, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish nationalist leader, has become a commanding figure during the crisis. Her administration’s many Covid failures replicate the blunderings of Westminster, but her reassuring language has boosted her standing. She has deployed Scotland’s devolved powers over health to eye-catching effect. London has discovered to its consternation that all the nations of the U.K., minus England, can go their own way in this epidemic. Historians see the glue of Union slowly dissolving. Linda Colley’s influential book “Britons,” published 30 years ago, observed that the causes that kept the two nations together — Protestantism, empire and fear of invasion from the continent — had vanished. But there are no inevitables in history. Unionists must put up a fight.The Conservatives have one important ally: The opposition Labour Party ’s leader, Keir Starmer, has so far ruled out a bargain with the SNP in return for their future support in forming a government. But Johnson isn’t the man to lead a crusade to preserve the U.K. Michael Gove, his Scottish-born cabinet minister, holds the brief. Although a talented administrator, Gove is too hot-blooded in his attachment to the Union and is burdened with other responsibilities, including Brexit.Ruth Davidson, a recent Scottish Conservative leader with a cult following, relished combat with Sturgeon and often bested her before giving up full-time politics after starting a family and falling out with Johnson over Brexit. She is amusing and punchy — the most convincing figure the Tories have to make the case that breaking up the Union would be bad for both sides of the border . Johnson needs to find the right woman or man fast. Otherwise Scottish independence might turn into a bad idea whose time has come.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Martin Ivens was editor of the Sunday Times from 2013 to 2020 and was formerly its chief political commentator. He is a director of the Times 新世代自取點papers board. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business 新世代自取點 source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Tom Burgis’s study of dark global realities casts a wide net, from Washington to Moscow, Kazakhstan and the Congo * Opinion: $2tn in possible corrupt activity and KleptopiaIn a year dominated by a US presidential election between a kleptocrat and a democrat, a book about world-class thieves laundering trillions ought be the perfect bedtime reading for anyone curious about the unprecedented amounts of money that have been looted and hidden over the last 20 years.Tom Burgis, a reporter for the Financial Times, is certainly an impressive investigator. He works hard to explain how myriad financial institutions, from the Bank of New York to Merrill Lynch and HSBC, have tried to deceive regulators and wash the ill-gotten gains of countless dictators.The oligarchs of Putin’s Russia are big players in these pages. So are Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, British bankers turned regulators, a trio of Central Asian billionaires, and no fewer than 30 other major characters, all listed at the beginning.This results in so many competing storylines that it becomes almost impossible to keep track. We bounce back and forth, from the Russian and Italian gangsters of Brooklyn to the oil fields of the former Soviet Union, from the platinum mines of Zimbabwe to the copper and cobalt of the Congo.> Burgis draws useful parallels between Putin’s kleptocracy and Hitler’s GermanyThere are long sections about the wholesale theft of natural resources in post-Soviet Russia and the birth of the oligarchs, all of whom were forced to become Putin’s partners – or face imprisonment or death. For example, the purchase of a three-quarter stake in Yukos, for $350m, made Mikhail Khodorkovsky the richest man in Russia. Five years later, the vast oil company with 100,000 employees was worth $12bn. Khodorkovsky was arrested, jailed and eventually sent into exile.Burgis draws useful parallels between Putin’s kleptocracy and Hitler’s Germany, each home to both a “normative state” that generally respects its own laws and a “prerogative state” that violates most of them.According to the German-Jewish lawyer who was the author of the theory in the 1930s, “Nazi Germany was not a straightforward totalitarian system. It retained some vestiges of the rule of law, chiefly in matters of business, so that the capitalist economy had the basic rules it needed to keep going. But the prerogative state – Hitler’s political machinery – enjoyed … ‘jurisdiction over jurisdiction.”> Trump helped to construct a new 'global alliance of kleptocrats'. Their whole goal is the privatization of powerPutin has used his jurisdiction over everything to vanquish almost all of his enemies. And since Donald Trump has been collaborating with Russians in one way or another for almost 40 years, our kleptocrat-in-chief does finally make an appearance in Kleptopia, on page 250. After we’ve read a lot about Felix Sater, a second-generation Russian mobster connected to several schemes including the Trump Soho in lower Manhattan, Trump is identified as the “crucial ingredient” in Sater’s “magic potion for transforming dirty money”.Once the ratings of The Apprentice had washed away the public memory of multiple bankruptcies and “reinvented” his name as “a success”, Trump’s role in real estate deals became simply to “rent out his name”.“The projects could go bust,” Burgis writes, and “they usually did – but that wasn’t a problem.” The money had completed “its metamorphoses from plunder to clean capital”.Then there was the notorious sale of Trump’s Palm Beach mansion, to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95m, more than twice what Trump paid a few years before. According to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, Trump thought the real buyer was Putin – a story which hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it should.With his election as president, as Burgis puts it, Trump helped to construct a new “global alliance of kleptocrats”. Their whole goal is the privatization of power, and they control “the three great poles” – the US, China and Russia.In our new world of alternate facts, corruption is “no longer a sign of a failing state, but of a state succeeding in its new purpose”. The new kleptocrats have subverted their nations’ institutions, “to seize for themselves that which rightfully belonged to the commonwealth”.This is a ghastly and very important story. But the secret to great storytelling is knowing what to leave out. If Burgis had found a more focused way to tell this one, he would have written a much more powerful book.
Texas has already cast nearly 7 million votes, more than anywhere in America, and Glen Murdoch couldn’t get his ballot in fast enough after becoming a U.S. citizen this summer. “I was champing at the bit,” said Murdoch, who moved to Austin from Australia shortly after President Donald Trump took office, and cast a ballot last week to vote him out. It’s a rush to the polls in Texas like seldom seen before.
“Many are longtime Republicans wrestling with what they see as a choice between two lousy candidates.”
“Some undecideds turn out to be people who’ve long felt alienated from the two big political parties.”
“They’re not following the 24-hour 新世代自取點 cycle. The election and politics are just not a high priority.”
“One common trait: at this stage of the game, the undecided voter doesn’t fit into an easy political profile.”
“More realistically...these voters may not be motivated to vote at all in the 2020 election.”