Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

France under fire for authorising Turkish campaign event

March 13, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© Jean-Christophe Verhaegen, AFP | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives to give a speech in the eastern French city of Metz on March 12, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-03-13

France’s government came under fierce criticism on Sunday for allowing Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to campaign in the northeastern city of Metz amid tensions with Europe ahead of next month’s referendum on a new Turkish constitution.

Cavusoglu campaigned in support of a “yes” vote in Turkey’s April 16 referendum at a gathering organised by the local Turkish community in Metz. If passed, the new constitution would expand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

The event came a day after the Netherlands barred Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from attending a similar event in Rotterdam, prompting Erdogan and Cavusoglu to accuse the Dutch government of “fascism”.


Turkey’s push to woo foreign voters has run into problems elsewhere in Europe. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen postponed a scheduled visit with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim over the weekend in light of the “current Turkish attack on Holland”. Meanwhile, Austria and Switzerland have both made it clear that Turkey was not welcome to campaign within their borders.

The French government’s decision to allow the meeting in Metz was met with immediate criticism from politicians, who accused the government of failing to show solidarity with the rest of Europe.

“It’s obvious that there should have been a united stance on handling Turkey’s demands. The French government could have prevented this meeting from taking place,” conservative presidential hopeful François Fillon said.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen echoed Fillon’s comments. “Why should we tolerate rhetoric that other democracies have rejected on our soil? No Turkish electoral campaign in France,” she posted on Twitter.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron also spoke out against the rally in Metz. “Our country shouldn’t accept any provocation or attack against our democracy, our allies [or] our values on its soil,” he said.

‘France’s role is not to ban debate’

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault defended the government’s decision to allow the event to proceed on Sunday, pointing out there was no reason to ban it in the absence of a threat to public order. He urged for calm, calling on Turkish authorities to “avoid all excess and provocations”.

“In these circumstances, it is crucial to show responsibility and to avoid useless controversies,” Ayrault said.

Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon agreed with Ayrault, arguing that France should support freedom of speech.

“I belong to the tradition where, even if I completely disagree with the way in which Erdogan’s Turkey wants to reduce liberties… France’s role is not to ban a debate,” he said.

Hamon stressed, however, that Erdogan’s response to the Netherlands was unacceptable and called on Turkey to “return to reason”.

There are an estimated 700,000 Turks in France, 160,000 of whom live in the country’s northeast. Many travelled from the nearby regions of Alsace and Lorraine to attend the rally in Metz.

Erdogan thanked France on Sunday for allowing Cavusoglu to attend the event, praising the country for “not falling into [the same] trap” as the Netherlands or other European countries.



Turkey hits out as Netherlands — Calls them Nazis — As Dutch bar Turkey’s foreign minster’s flight from landing

March 11, 2017

Turkey has likened the Dutch government to fascist Nazis after the Turkish foreign minister was blocked from attending a political rally in Rotterdam. Ankara has vowed political sanctions against the Netherlands.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevut Casuvoglu

The Netherlands has denied landing permission for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevut Casuvoglu’s plane, hours after he threatened sanctions should the Dutch government not allow him to attend a political rally in Rotterdam on Saturday.

The Dutch government said in a statement landing permission was denied because of the “risks to public order and security” created by Cavusoglu’s planned visit to drum up support among the Turkish community for next month’s referendum to dramatically expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Authorities in Rotterdam denied permission for the rally on Friday, but Casuvoglu told CNN Turk before his departure on Saturday that he planned to fly to Rotterdam anyway.

“If my going will increase tensions, let it be,” he told CNN Turk. “What damage will my going have on them? I am a foreign minister and I can go wherever I want.”

Ankara would impose political and economic sanctions on the Netherlands if his plane was denied permission to land, Cavusoglu also said. He repeated earlier government statements that European governments were using “fascist practices” to prevent political rallies.

The Dutch government said it was trying to find a solution with Turkey, but after Cavusoglu threatened political sanctions it “makes the search for a reasonable solution impossible.”
“For that reason the Netherlands has let it be known it will withdraw permission to land,” it said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders on Thursday said his country would not cooperate or facilitate Turkish government campaigning in the Netherlands, causing a diplomatic spat similar to that between Berlin and Ankara.

Watch video05:39
Germany-Turkey: The escalating war of words

Responding to the flight ban at a rally in Istanbul, Erdogan said the Dutch policies were reminiscent of the Nazis.

“They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists,” Erdogan said. “Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey,” he said, adding that any action would impact diplomats and not tourists.

The Dutch decision to block landing permission is likely to escalate tensions between the two NATO allies. In response, Turkey summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires to the foreign ministry in Ankara.

The spat comes four days before elections in the Netherlands, where right-wing, anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is running neck and neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party.

The April 16 referendum is a highly divisive issue in Turkey, where the government has likened those against expanded presidential powers to “terrorists” and coup plotters.

“Many Dutch people with a Turkish background are authorized to vote in the referendum over the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government does not have any protest against gatherings in our country to inform them about it,” Rutte said on Facebook.

“But these gatherings may not contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed,” Rutte added.

Earlier on CNN Turk, Cavusoglu accused Rutte and other European governments of playing populist politics ahead of elections.

The feud with the Netherlands reflects broader tensions between Turkey and Europe, especially with Germany, after several cities there blocked Turkish ministers from addressing rallies, citing security concerns.
A number of Turkish officials, including Erdogan, have accused Germany of Nazi and fascist-like behavior and double standards on freedom of speech and democracy.

Watch video01:38
Merkel: Nazi references must stop

The German government has indicated that it does not intend to introduce a top-down ban on rallies following a constitutional court decision on Friday finding the government can legally ban Turkish officials from campaigning in Germany.

On CNN Turk, Cavusoglu accused Europe of campaigning for a “No” vote in referendum, suggesting the continent wanted to prevent Turkey from being “strong, stable and independent.”

He claimed the German intelligence agency, police and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “threatened” the owners of event halls to cancel a scheduled rally in Hamburg.

The comments play into the Turkish government’s efforts to stoke nationalist sentiment ahead of next month’s referendum, which according to several polls is leaning towards a “No” vote.

If the constitutional amendments pass the referendum, it would be a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy, a panel of legal experts from the Council of Europe said on Friday.

cw/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)


Switzerland: Turkish election rally banned ahead of controversial visit — “No heightened threat to domestic security”

March 11, 2017
MAR 10, 2017 – 18:49
Kurds demonstrating after clashes with Turkish nationalists in Bern in 2015
Kurds demonstrating after clashes with Turkish nationalists in Bern in 2015(Keystone)

Local authorities in Switzerland have banned an election rally outside Zurich by a Turkish politician from Istanbul.

The decision by the Aargau cantonal police on Friday comes ahead a planned visit to Zurich by Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, on Sunday.

The Swiss government said Cavuşoğlu’s visit posed “no heightened threat to domestic security”, rejecting a demand by the Zurich cantonal government.

The foreign ministry added there were no grounds to limit freedom of speech.

According to a note sent by the Turkish embassy to the foreign ministry, Cavuşoğlu is scheduled to meet the Turkish consul generals of Switzerland and Austria in Zurich as well as members of the Turkish community.

Local ban

Meanwhile,  a planned election rally near Zurich on Friday by a senior Turkish politician from Istanbul has been forbidden.

The Aargau cantonal police announced it decided to grant no permission for a public event with Hurşit Yildirim for security reasons.

The politician of the ruling conservative AKP party with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was initially scheduled to speak in the city of Zurich, but the event was banned by the authorities.


On Wednesday, the Zurich cantonal government expressed its reservations about Cavuşoğlu’s visit. The head of cantonal security told the Swiss News Agency that “even with a large police force, we cannot guarantee that the event will occur in a calm and smooth manner”.

He added that cantonal authorities refused to be held responsible for the visit, and mass demonstrations could be expected.

Earlier on Thursday the Zurich hotel booked by Cavuşoğlu cancelled his meeting room. The hotel manager said the organisers “couldn’t guarantee the safety of hotel guests, attendees and hotel staff”.


Tensions between pro and anti-Erdoğan supporters in Switzerland have increased since the failed coup of July 2016.

There have also been clashes with Kurds and last year Zurich police had to use tear gas to break up an unauthorised demonstration. On Wednesday, an annual cabinet report flagged up the risk of clashes between Kurds and Turkish Islamists and nationalists residing in Switzerland as a major ethno-nationalist threat in the country.

On April 16, Turks will vote on a referendum on constitutional amendments that include strengthening the powers of President Erdoğan.

There has been resistance in Germany and Austria at attempts by Turkish politicians to campaign and influence Turkish passport holders who also have the right to vote. Germany and Austria have around 1.5 million and 300,000 residents of Turkish origin respectively.

An estimated 120,000 people with Turkish roots, including around 68,000 Turkish citizens, live in Switzerland. with agencies/ts, a.c, ug

Turkish tensions with Europe risk spilling into Switzerland — Turks with diplomatic passports seeking asylum in Switzerland after President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown in the wake of a failed coup last year

March 9, 2017


March 9, 2017
European Union and Turkish flags fly outside a hotel in Istanbul
European Union (L) and Turkish flags fly outside a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

By Michael Shields

ZURICH (Reuters) – Neutral Switzerland risks getting swept up in Turkey’s political row with European countries as Swiss authorities weigh how to handle Turks’ requests for asylum and a call to ban a rally on Sunday by Turkey’s foreign minister.

The government was keeping a low profile on Thursday, saying only that it was reviewing a request by financial capital Zurich to block a planned weekend appearance by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for security reasons.

The Hilton hotel booked for the rally canceled the event, saying organizers could not ensure the safety of guests and visitors.

It comes amid a series of speaking engagements to galvanize support among the Turkish community for President Tayyip Erdogan’s bid to increase his powers in a referendum on April 16.

The foreign ministry declined to comment on media reports that several Turks with diplomatic passports, including the second-ranking envoy in Bern, had sought asylum after President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown in the wake of a failed coup last year.

The State Secretariat for Migration, which handles asylum requests, said it does not comment on individual requests for refugee status. It referred instead to a government response this week to a parliamentary query on the matter.

That note said 408 Turkish citizens had sought asylum since the July coup attempt, including some holders of diplomatic passports. It said it could not comment further on the “very few individual cases” among diplomats for fear it could give away their identities.

Turkish embassy officials in Bern were not immediately available by phone and did not respond to an email seeking comment.

During a visit to neighboring Germany on Wednesday, Cavusoglu accused Berlin of hostility towards his country and Islam as acrimony between the NATO allies showed no sign of abating.

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkey to stop comparing the German government to the Nazis over the cancellation of Turkish ministers’ rallies in Germany, only for Cavusoglu to repeat the comparison.

Ankara is furious over the cancellations. Germany has said the rallies can go ahead if the organizers respect local laws, but has canceled several rallies, citing security concerns.

In Austria, the interior minister said this week he wanted to change legislation to permit a ban on foreign officials making speeches in Austria if human rights or public order were threatened, a move aimed at Turkish politicians.

Swiss government statistics show around 68,000 Turkish citizens live in Switzerland, a nation of 8.3 million whose population is a quarter foreign. The Turkish embassy’s website refers to around 130,000 Turkish citizens.

(Additional reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Trump’s Currency Complaints Hit Unexpected Targets

February 17, 2017

Top-five trading partners China, Japan and Germany brush them off; Taiwan and Switzerland seem to be paying heed


Feb. 17, 2017 3:47 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusations of currency manipulation appear to be reaching an audience he may not have primarily intended.

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies,…

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies , while his top trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of benefiting from what he termed the “grossly undervalued” euro .

All three countries, which rank among the U.S.’s top five trading partners, have brushed off the Trump administration’s claims.

“No one has the right to tell us that the yen is weak,” Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso told parliament on Wednesday, following last weekend’s meeting between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Japan hasn’t directly intervened in currency markets since 2011 following a major tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The charge that Germany exploits the U.S. and other countries with an undervalued currency is more than absurd,” Jens Weidmann , the president of the German central bank, said earlier this month.

China hasn’t directly commented on Mr. Trump’s criticisms, but most analysts say Beijing recently has been propping up the yuan by selling foreign-currency reserves rather than looking to weaken it.

Still, some smaller economies look like they are taking notice, notably Taiwan and Switzerland. The U.S. Treasury found in October that both had engaged in persistent, one-way currency intervention, essentially by buying foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and selling their own to maintain weak exchange rates.

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Analysts say the central banks of Switzerland and Taiwan are now stepping back from those activities, perhaps to avoid closer scrutiny from the Trump administration. The upshot: The Swiss franc has advanced nearly 2% against the U.S. dollar this year, while the new Taiwan dollar has surged 5.3%. Both have outperformed the euro and yen since the U.S. election in early November.

Taiwan’s central bank bought $500 million in foreign currencies in the fourth quarter, well below its quarterly average of more than $3 billion since 2012, according to Khoon Goh , head of Asia research at ANZ in Singapore, who said he suspects it is stepping back from “currency-smoothing operations.” The central bank said it doesn’t comment on currency policy.

For the first nine months of last year, the Swiss National Bank /quotes/zigman/1379668/delayed CH:SNBN +0.12% intervened heavily in currency markets to slow the franc’s rise, spending an amount roughly equivalent to its current-account surplus for the period, J.P. Morgan/quotes/zigman/272085/composite JPM -0.76% analysts note. Over the following four months, the scale dropped to around two-thirds of the surplus.

“It’s not an entirely fanciful suggestion that the SNB might be tapering intervention in order to the guard against the risk of being cited by the U.S. Treasury as a currency manipulator,” the analysts wrote in a note.

The Swiss National Bank declined to comment.

For the U.S. to label an economy a currency manipulator under the current law, it must have a large trade surplus with the U.S. and a hefty current-account surplus and persistently intervene in the currency in one direction. As of October, no economies met all three criteria.

Recent comments from officials in South Korea, which the Treasury has flagged for its hefty trade surplus with the U.S. and its current-account surplus, suggest they’re similarly eager to avoid U.S. ire, says Govinda Finn , senior analyst at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh. The Korean won has surged 5.2% against the dollar this year.

But any gains in the Korean and Taiwanese currencies due to U.S. political pressure may not last, he said: “On a longer-term horizon, there’s a pretty strong case to say both of those currencies can and will weaken as the authorities look to support their economies.”

Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at

A Chinese province has admitted to falsifying economic data — Official government reports up to 23 Percent larger than reality

January 19, 2017
Staff writers — News Corp Australia Network

CHINESE economic figures have been inflated by as much as 23 per cent as allegedly corrupt officials sought to advance their careers.

According to the South China Morning Post, considered China’s ‘rust belt’, Liaoning province, confirmed fears that some of its economic figures, including fiscal revenue, were fictionally boosted.

The revelation throws new doubt onto the accuracy of China’s economic data days out from the release of the country’s full-year growth report. Both country and city governments were involved in the alleged fraud between 2011 and 2014 in the northwest region.

Officials in Liaoning province have been accused of falsifying economic data. Picture: AP

Officials in Liaoning province have been accused of falsifying economic data. Picture: APSource:AP

State-run media, People’s Daily said income was inflated by as much as 23 per cent.

“Many cities and counties in Liaoning reported fraudulent economic figures,” governor Chen Qiufa told the provincial legislature, citing a document from the National Audit Office.

“The fake fiscal figures influenced the central government’s economic judgment and accordingly led to a lowering of the size of transfer payments to the province.”

Chen also said the data was invented because officials were craving career advancement.

The region subsequently recorded a double digit decline in government income in 2015.

Economic data in China northeast Liaoning province has been falsely inflated by as much as 23 per cent. Picture: AP

Economic data in China northeast Liaoning province has been falsely inflated by as much as 23 per cent. Picture: APSource:AP

The fake data also meant that local residents were hit with a greater tax burden in the region.

Falsifying figures was a widespread practice in China, Beijing Institute of Technology economics professor Hu Xingdou said.

“It’s good that Liaoning has admitted to it but that won’t be enough to solve it fundamentally,” Hu told the South China Morning Post.

The Chinese government itself appears to accept there are errors in the reporting of economic data. Last year the chief of the country’s National Bureau of Statistics issued a warning about the falsification of data in People’s Daily.

The development comes after a United Nations report said Asia’s economic outlook for 2017 is strong despite slowing global growth due to sluggish international trade and investment.

The world economy grew 2.2 percent in 2016, the slowest pace since the end of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Most economies in East Asia and South Asia, led by China and India, saw robust growth driven by strong expansion of domestic demand,” the report said.

China's President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: AP

China’s President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: APSource:AP


China is making progress in shifting from export-oriented growth to tapping domestic demand, the report said. It estimated the Chinese economy grew 6.6 percent in 2016, despite a 6.8 percent contraction in exports for the year, as reported by the government.

Services are growing in importance in China, says Sompob Manarangsan, an economics professor at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University. “There’s still quite some room for China to further develop by using their own domestic demand,” he said.

US Presdient-elect Donald Trump has railed against existing free-trade agreements and threatened to impose punitive tariffs on some imports at a time when Asian economies have been gradually committing to wider opening of their own markets.

Sompob said China looked set to counter protectionist moves, given its stake in global trade.

“You see Xi Jingping, the president of China, going to join Davos to show how much he supports the market-based economy,” Sompob said, referring to an annual World Economic Forum gathering of global political and economic leaders being held in Switzerland this week. “China from now on is going to perform against what Donald Trump is going to do.”

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Davos: John Kerry claims Trump administration will only last a year or two as he vows that globalization will make a comeback — Failed Obama Presidency Comes To A Close

January 18, 2017

John Kerry says the Trump administration could do ‘irreparable damage’ to America’s reputation and economy – but suggested his time in office will only last ‘a year or two’.

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last 'a year, two years'

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last ‘a year, two years’

  •  John Kerry spoke at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland 
  •  He said Trump’s protectionist stance would ‘injure our own credibility’
  •  ‘It will hurt for the endurance of a year, two years, whatever, while the [Trump]  administration is there,’ he added 
  •  Kerry is due to hand over to controversial pick Rex Tillerson, ex-CEO of Exxon 

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry says the Trump administration could do ‘irreparable damage’ to America’s reputation and economy – but suggested his time in office will only last ‘a year or two’.

Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the president-elect’s plans were ‘dangerous’ and will ‘injure’ the credibility of the United States

He also delivered a stark warning of the dangers of economic populism, but insisted globalization would make a comeback in the future.

The speech is one of the last Kerry will make before he his replaced by Trump’s secretary of state pick, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.


John Kerry Says Trump administration will last A Year — Two Years

Speaking at an event moderated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Kerry said of Trump’s protectionist, anti-globalization program: ‘We’ll have injured our own credibility in… an irreparable way. Not irreparably. There’s time, and that’s just too dramatic.

‘But we will have done great injury to ourselves. And it will hurt for the endurance of a year, two years, whatever, while the [Trump] administration is there.’

Kerry said: ‘It’s really dangerous to play to the lowest common denominator of American, of global political life.’

Trump won November’s White House race having pledged to return ‘American jobs’ from production plants in China and Mexico, and the incoming leader has threatened to tear up trade deals.

This week Trump also declared the NATO strategic alliance ‘obsolete’ while praising Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, predicting other members would follow suit.

Kerry admitted that ‘certain people in political life’ have tapped into legitimate anxieties about job insecurity in a globalized economy of free trade and capital flows.

Donald Trump won the White House by pledging to return 'American jobs' from production plants in China and Mexico, and threatening to tear up trade deals

Donald Trump won the White House by pledging to return ‘American jobs’ from production plants in China and Mexico, and threatening to tear up trade deals


But he insisted automation rather than a shift toward foreign labor was what has hit the US workforce and argued that trade would help power the growth needed to bring new jobs.

Kerry also defended NATO and the European Union as guarantors of stability in a continent once wracked by war.

‘I don’t know where the new administration is going,’ he said, of the new White House team that will replace President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday.

‘But my message, friends in Europe… is that Europe has got to believe in itself,’ Kerry said.

‘Europe needs to recognize it that the reason people came together was not just economic, in fact it was not just principally economic. It was to stop Europeans from killing Europeans,’ he said, a reference to the First and Second World Wars.

Kerry argued that far from inheriting the enfeebled US economy Trump described in his campaign rhetoric, the real estate tycoon turned politician would enter office ‘with the wind at his back.’

This could be put at risk by a disengagement from the world economy in the name of protecting US jobs.

‘Now obviously the new president is tapped into the anger,’ Kerry admitted.

‘But has he seen the way in which this can be solved that doesn’t undo economic opportunities and doesn’t create more barriers and more turmoil?’

Kerry’s stance was echoed by China’s President Xi Jinping – who addressed the Davos forum yesterday.

Xi told attendees there was ‘no point’ in blaming economic globalization for the world’s problems and no-one would win a trans-Pacific trade war.


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John Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, met Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. Credit Dominick Reuter, Agence France-Presse, Getty Image

John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in 2013. AP photo

Kerry and Lavrov in happier times.

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White Helmet rescue workers try to find children buried in the wrechage of Aleppos by Russian and Syrian Bombing — after the Obama Adminstration withdrew from the Middle East.



John KerrySecretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at The U.S. Department of State. CREDIT: 2016 GETTY IMAGES/2016 GETTY IMAGES



 (From the BBC)


The Obama presidency that never was

The Obama presidency that never was
© Getty Images

“Hope” and “change.”

Those were the words that propelled Barack Obama—a first-term, backbench United States senator from Illinois whose only name recognition came from a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention—from the hustings in small towns across Iowa to the White House.

Eight years later Obama’s presidency ends with the magic that once surrounded his candidacy and subsequent election long gone.

No automatic alt text available.

In the end, however, Obama may go down in the annals of presidential history as an asterisk—the country’s first black president. Nothing more.

That’s because much of Obama’s record will be erased by Donald Trump, his successor as the forty-fifth president of the United States, and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

It may take a while, but the GOP will eventually repeal Obamacare and the litany of other laws and administrative regulations that make up the Obama record.

Obama’s poll numbers—54 percent of Americans approve of him, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls—have recovered from the low point of his presidency following the enactment of Obamacare, when Lucifer probably had a better approval rating.

Nevertheless, his fall from grace is remarkable. Especially when you consider this was the president who was viewed by many on the political left as their messiah.

Yet it wasn’t just the Democratic base that had lofty expectations.

Running against Sen. John McCain, whose selection of an incompetent and grossly under-qualified running mate was a mortal blow to his candidacy, Obama appealed to many Republicans and GOP-inclined voters who thought he could heal divisions and bring Americans together. These were the Obamacons.

I didn’t vote for Obama, but I came darn close to doing so in the privacy of the voting booth, despite having my name on the GOP ticket a few lines underneath McCain.

Like many millennial voters, I was captivated by the possibilities of ushering in an Era of Good Feelings. This was after all a period when post-partisanship and good government were the fashionable buzzwords.

Flashing forward to the present-day, the allure of candidate Obama never came to fruition.

America is more divided than ever. Obama has split the country in ways not seen since the Civil War.

And those divisions aren’t limited to partisanship or even the identity politics of race, ethnicity, sex (who would have thought what bathroom you use would ever become an issue!) and religion.

Obama moved Democrats so far to the left that the two major parties no longer believe in the same creed.

If there is an Obama legacy this will surely be it.

While the chattering class relentlessly opined on the tea party’s rise to dominate Republican politics there has been scant mention of Obama’s transformation of the Democratic Party.

Pre-Obama you could find Democrats, the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who dissented from the party whip on abortion, the Second Amendment, morality, national defense and so forth. Today, those Democrats are relegated to the ash heap of history.

As a result, Obama’s Democratic Party has been decimated as the party of J.F.K. openly embraces the far-left and socialism embodied by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman who will likely be the next Democratic National Committee chairman.

Obama resurrected Republicans, who were electorally finished in the wake of his 2008 landslide.

The president and his partisans blame Republicans and their allies on the  airwaves, but the reality is Obama has nobody to blame but himself.

Attacking Republicans for doing what opposition parties are supposed to do — that is, being the party of ‘no’ — is an absurd attempt at blameshifting.

Obama failed because he was either disinterested or incompetent in the sausage making that was required to bring about the expectations he and he alone set with his soaring rhetoric and lofty promises.

Just think how things may have been different had President Obama actually governed like candidate Obama and unified the country in the process.

Dennis Lennox is executive director of Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands. Follow him on Twitter @dennislennox.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.




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John Podesta

“We published several…emails which show Podesta responding to a phishing email,” said Mr Assange. “Podesta gave out that his password was the word ‘password’. His own staff said this email that you’ve received, this is totally legitimate. So, this is something … a 14-year-old kid could have hacked Podesta that way.”


Australian police probing 1MDB-linked firms

January 11, 2017

1MDB is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six other countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States


The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said on Tuesday they are working with international law enforcement agencies to investigate companies associated with Malaysia’s scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund.

1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), founded by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six other countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice allege more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB. The lawsuits seek to seize US$1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings, and a private jet.

Najib, who also chaired 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied wrongdoing and said Malaysia would cooperate with international investigations. 1MDB has also denied wrongdoing.

 Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

The AFP is responsible for investigating breaches of proceeds of crime laws by Australian companies, citizens and residents.

“The AFP is aware of allegations relating to companies associated with 1MDB and have assisted our foreign law enforcement partners with their investigations in relation to a number of these matters,” the AFP said in an emailed statement.

“As the AFP continues to evaluate these allegations it would not be appropriate to provide any further comment at this time,” it said.

The AFP did not respond to questions about reports they were investigating whether any financial gains from the scandal were in Australia or with which international agencies it was working.

Singaporean authorities have frozen the assets of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, who has not been charged with any offence related to 1MDB but has been identified as a person of interest in related investigations.

Singapore prosecutors filed 16 charges last week against the former local branch manager of Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank AG as part of its investigation into 1MDB.

Authorities in the city-state convicted two former bankers from Swiss wealth manager BSI last year on charges including forgery and failure to disclose suspicious transactions involving Jho Low.


SINGAPORE – A former branch manager of Falcon Private Bank was sentenced to 28 weeks jail and a fine of S$128,000 after he pleaded guilty to six counts including consenting in the bank’s failure to comply with Singapore’s anti-money laundering rules in relation to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Swiss national Jens Sturzenegger, 42, was charged on Jan 5 with 16 counts including failing to report suspicious transactions tied to inflows of about US$1.265 billion (S$1.81 billion) into two accounts between March 21 and 25, 2013.

The remaining 10 charges were taken into consideration. Prosecution was seeking a sentence of 30-32 weeks imprisonment and fines totalling S$150,000.

Sturzenegger, the first foreigner and the fifth person to be charged in relation to the 1MDB scandal, was also accused of lying to police and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) about his ties to tycoon Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low. Mr Low is accused by the authorities around the world of being at the centre of alleged massive money laundering linked to 1MDB.

It is believed hundreds of millions of dollars have been transferred from accounts at Falcon to Mr Low and his associates as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia’s Attorney-General.

Falcon Bank’s Former Singapore Manager Sent to Prison in 1MDB Probe

January 11, 2017

The former branch manager is the fourth person to go to prison in the city-state’s probe of a Malaysian state investment fund

Jens Sturzenegger, former branch manager for Falcon Private Bank, headed to court in Singapore with his lawyer on Wednesday.

Jens Sturzenegger, former branch manager for Falcon Private Bank, headed to court in Singapore with his lawyer on Wednesday .  Photo:  Wallace Woon/European Pressphoto Agency

Updated Jan. 11, 2017 5:13 a.m. ET


A Singapore court Wednesday sentenced a former branch manager of Switzerland’s Falcon Private Bank AG to prison for crimes connected to the alleged multibillion-dollar misappropriation at Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.

Jens Sturzenegger, 42, a Swiss national who managed Falcon’s Singapore unit, was charged last week with 16 offenses under various laws, including one that requires banks and their officers to enact due-diligence checks on clients to prevent money laundering.

The court Wednesday handed a 28-week prison sentence and a fine of 128,000 Singapore dollars (US$89,000) to Mr. Sturzenegger after he pleaded guilty to six offenses. These include three counts of providing false information to police and central bank authorities, and three counts of failing to report suspicious transactions. The remaining charges were taken into consideration in his sentencing but won’t be pursued separately by the prosecution.

While the charges didn’t directly link Mr. Sturzenegger to fund flows at 1Malaysia Development Bhd., Singapore’s central bank and regulator had said in October that the branch manager had been arrested that month in connection with the city-state’s probe into the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund. Prosecutors have called the investigation Singapore’s largest-ever probe of alleged money laundering.

On Wednesday, prosecutors told the court that Mr. Sturzenegger had lied to officers of the central bank and to the Singapore police’s white-collar crimes investigation unit as they examined Falcon transactions related to 1MDB fund flows. Mr. Sturzenegger’s lawyer said that his client had not derived any personal gain in relation to bank transactions, and sought a more lenient sentence, court documents showed.

The charges refer to Mr. Sturzenegger’s business dealings with Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who global investigators have said was key to orchestrating the alleged 1MDB misappropriation. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that global investigators believe hundreds of millions of dollars of 1MDB money made its way through an account held at Falcon in Singapore to the personal accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mr. Najib has been cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia’s attorney general, who said that the money deposited in his account was a legal donation from Saudi Arabia and most of it was returned. Mr. Najib, the Malaysian financier Mr. Low and 1MDB have all denied any wrongdoing. 1MDB has pledged cooperation with any lawful investigation. None of the three could be reached immediately on Wednesday.

Falcon declined to comment on Wednesday. The bank has previously said it is initiating new control measures to prevent future issues and that it has been cooperating with authorities.

Investigators in at least five countries are probing the finances of 1MDB in response to allegations that billions of dollars have gone missing. Swiss investigators say they believe that as much as US$4 billion was misappropriated from the fund through several banks, including private banks in Singapore.

In October, Singapore’s central bank withdrew the merchant-banking license of Falcon’s Singapore branch that Mr. Sturzenegger managed for what it called “persistent and severe lack of understanding” of its regulations, and fined it S$4.3 million.

The same month, Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General expanded its scrutiny of Malaysia’s 1MDB by opening a criminal investigation into Falcon. The Swiss attorney general’s office said at the time that internal “deficiencies” at the Zurich-based bank may have caused it to fail to prevent alleged money laundering associated with 1MDB.

Mr. Sturzenegger is the fourth person to be handed a prison sentence in Singapore’s 1MDB-related investigations.

In recent months, Singapore courts have convicted three former bankers at the local branch of another Swiss private bank, BSI SA, for crimes related to their handling of fund flows connected to 1MDB. They were given prison sentences of varying lengths for crimes such as failing to report suspicious transactions, forgery and attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

Write to P.R. Venkat at


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Malaysia: Sound advice to Najib – don’t hide any more

January 2, 2017


By Stephen Ng


COMMENT Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) imbroglio has dragged on for far too long, making people becoming more impatient with the ruling party.

If I may use the word, it is ‘restless’. Yes, the people are getting very restless over the way that the economy is taking a beating as a result of the 1MDB scandal. 1MDB has been headlined in nearly every newspaper and magazine overseas, whereas in Malaysia, people are allegedly still being told one lie after another.

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Everywhere I go, whenever I speak to people, whether old friends or new people I meet, everyone is fully aware of the scandal that has plagued the nation for far too long.

If Umno’s own warlords do not unseat him as party president before the next general election, it would do a great injustice to the entire coalition that has ruled the country for the past 60 years.

In fact, by Aug 31 this year, it would be exactly 60 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as the country’s first prime minister, declared Independence from the British colonialists.

Since his time, Umno has morphed into something totally different from the times and era of the Father of Independence. Its alleged involvement in one scandal after another has shocked the nation, yet Malaysians at large are to be blamed for being laid back and good at criticising others whom they expect to change the world for them.

It takes people like Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Teresa Kok, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lim Guan Eng, Lim Kit Siang and Tony Pua to expose the scandals.

The latest scandal exposed by PKR vice-president Rafizi allegedly involves Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) where US$505million (RM2.26 billion) was to be spent on purchasing a 37 percent stake in Indonesia’s PT Eagle High Plantations.

The price at which Felda was going to pay for a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation, according to PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, raises an alarm, as Indonesian billionaire Peter Sondakh, who owns Rajawali Group, had taken up a 68.6 percent stake in EHP at only US$570 million.

Rafizi claimed he has “given information to assist authorities so that they can commence investigation into whether or not there was interference or instructions from superiors, whether at the board level or from politicians or government to Felda to proceed with the acquisition of Eagle High.”

Felda, on the other hand, plans to purchase a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion), for 582 rupiah per share.

He also brought up another major issue regarding the highest spending of RM25 billion last year on Felda’s replanting scheme, citing that this exposed the scheme to various risks of abuse and corruption.

Najib’s personal accounts

Recently, Singaporean former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, who was linked to the 1MDB scandal, was found guilty and sentenced to a 30-month jail term. Yeo, who is also linked to Najib’s close associate, Jho Low, will be facing other charges soon.

All that the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) could say was that Yeo’s jail sentence had nothing to do with either 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy or Najib himself.

In two other recent cases down south, both Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah are now serving jail terms because of their links to 1MDB. Yak is now serving an 18-week jail term on forgery charges and failure to disclose suspicious transactions, while Yak’s assistant, Yvonne Seah, is in prison for two weeks after she pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Two former executives of Abu Dhabi-based lnternational Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and its investment arm, Aabar Investments PJS, Khadem Al-Qubaishi and Mohamed Badawy al-Huseiny were also arrested for their links to “fraud and money-laundering on 1MDB”.

How then can Najib, through Jasa’s recent statement, deny that he had any link to the scandal, especially since he is all three – the chairperson of the 1MDB advisory board, the finance minister who came up with the brainchild, as well as the prime minister of Malaysia?

If Low was not involved, why did he not personally appear before the judiciary in the United States to claim the assets confiscated by the US Department of Justice? Why did his family members claim the assets on his behalf? I dare both the flamboyant Low and Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, to step foot on the US grounds at this juncture of their lives.

As for Najib, who claimed that RM2.6 billion that went into his personal accounts was donated by an unnamed generous Arab prince, why did he apply to intervene in the ex-parte lawsuit filed by Zaid Ibrahim to compel AmBank Islamic Berhad to disclose the details of how RM2.6 billion had been deposited into five accounts which are allegedly his?

Zaid did the right thing to pursue this matter, but hopefully, the court will uphold justice and rule in public interest. Like Zaid, we, too, want to know where the money came from and how it ended up in one man’s personal accounts, especially since the US Department of Justice had alleged that the money came from 1MDB.

It is not only RM2.6 billion, but another RM41 million which had allegedly originated from SRC International.

After all, the whole nation and the world is being told that the money was a donation from a generous Arab prince. Is there anything for Najib to hide now?

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