Tuesday, May 9

Tuesday, May 9

Plus: Australia’s 2017 budget is unveiled.


SOUTH KOREA’S ELECTION

MOON CLOSES IN

Photo: Ahn Young-joon

Photo: Ahn Young-joon

After a torrid six months of scandal and presidential impeachment, South Koreans will hope for a fresh start when they choose their next president on Tuesday.

Barring a calamity, pollsters and analysts agree that Moon Jae-in from the centre-left Minjoo Party will emerge victorious.

In contrast to his hawkish predecessor, Mr Moon advocates a more conciliatory approach to North Korea, advocating reengagement rather than open hostility. While he has wavered on the deployment of the US-backed THAAD anti-ballistic missile system, Moon is unlikely to back away from the long-standing policy, particularly given sections are already operational. Despite this, the new president will be far less pro-US than Park, a conservative, opening the door for increased cooperation China.

Domestically, Moon plans to increase government spending—allocating some $3.6 billion to create an additional 370,000 public sector jobs, mostly targeted at the elderly who struggle to make ends meet due to a weak pension system.

Reforming corporate laws to weaken family-run conglomerates, known as chaebol (think Samsung, Hyundai and LG), is also on Moon’s agenda. Samsung alone is estimated to comprise some 15% of the South Korean economy, leading to substantial income inequality. The Chaebol were also implicated in President Park’s dramatic demise, making them an easy mark.

There will be little laurel-resting for Tuesday’s victory—the new president is due to assume duties on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIA’S BUDGET IS REVEALED

HOUSING, INFRASTRUCTURE CENTRE STAGE

Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

PM Malcolm Turnbull’s centre-right government will reveal a smorgasbord of spending when it unveils its 2017 budget on Tuesday.

Having dominated public discourse for years, housing affordability will be front and centre of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s proposals. House prices in Sydney and Melbourne—where almost half of all Australians live—have increased substantially over the past decades; in 2016 median property values in Sydney topped AUD$1 million for the first time. Mr Morrison plans to alleviate this by incentivising Australia’s pension funds—the world’s third largest—to invest in affordable housing, thus increasing supply.

Also on the menu is infrastructure spending. The Turnbull government is set to unveil $5 billion for a second airport in Sydney and $10 billion for a new inland rail link connecting Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Tuesday’s budget represents a significant break from the slash-and-burn approach taken by Turnbull’s conservative predecessor Tony Abbott, potentially upsetting the right-wing of the prime minister’s Liberal Party. Increased spending on defence and cuts to higher education and welfare are Mr Turnbull’s olive branch.

Dig deeper: Australia’s sunspotted economy

FORMER GOVERNOR IN THE DOCK

AHOK LEARNS HIS FATE

Photo: Tribunnews/Irwan Rismawan

Photo: Tribunnews/Irwan Rismawan

Ex-Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama’s blasphemy trial will come to an end on Tuesday. But even if convicted, a jail sentence is unlikely.

The accusations against Chinese-Christian Ahok stem from a reference to a Quranic verse last September, a crime that carries a maximum five-year jail sentence. However, prosecutors have instead recommended two years probation, with a 12-month jail term only if Ahok reoffends. Prosecutors are likely recommending the reduced sentencing due to a lack of strong evidence. None of the prosecution’s witnesses had heard Ahok’s controversial speech directly; instead, they had viewed an edited video that allegedly took Ahok’s words out of context.

Despite repeated reassurances from the Supreme Court that Tuesday’s judges will act independently and the appointment of a Judicial Commission to monitor the case, political pressure to convict the former governor is immense. If Ahok is declared guilty on Tuesday, his sentence is likely to be equal to or less than the prosecution has put forward, as Indonesian judges rarely exceed prosecutors’ demands.

Dig deeper: Indonesia’s identity politics: a new normal?

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

The western Canadian province of British Columbia will vote in local elections.

Russia will commemorate the anniversary of the end of WWII, known as Victory Day, with military parades across 28 cities. Some 140,000 troops are expected to take part.