Wednesday, August 9

Wednesday, August 9

“BACKGROUND NOISE” Israeli PM faces intensifying investigation; supporters rally Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the most serious political crisis of his

“BACKGROUND NOISE”

Israeli PM faces intensifying investigation; supporters rally

Photo: Olivier Fitoussi

Photo: Olivier Fitoussi

Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the most serious political crisis of his two-decade political career. Today, thousands of members of his right-wing Likud party—including most of its lawmakers—will march in support of their leader.

For months, Netanyahu has been the subject of two corruption investigations. One alleges that he sought favourable coverage from the country’s largest newspaper—Yedioth Ahronoth—in return for commercial favours. Another maintains Bibi and his family accepted luxury gifts in exchange for political influence.

The probes have intensified over the past week. On Friday, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow agreed to turn state’s witness in return for avoiding jail. This follows the release of court documents, which publicly named Netanyahu as a suspect for the first time, increasing speculation about his political downfall.

But Netanyahu has dismissed the allegations as “background noise”. Indeed, even if he is convicted of criminal offences, he’s not required to step down under Israeli law.

With elections not scheduled to take place until November 2019, this tenacious political actor is going nowhere in a hurry.

ARMED COURTSHIP

Russian foreign minister holds talks in Indonesia

Photo: AFP/Johannes Eisele

Photo: AFP/Johannes Eisele

Sergei Lavrov wraps up a visit to Jakarta today, where he’ll meet with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Indonesia recently confirmed plans to buy 11 Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, signalling an increased Russian effort to expand its influence in Southeast Asia. Lavrov may use his meeting with Mr Marsudi to try to close the deal, which is yet to be signed.

The deal represents part of a growing relationship. Lavrov will also discuss the prospects of a trade deal between Indonesia and the Eurasian Economic Union—trade between the two is up 14% so far this year. But it’s not all chummy—Jakarta’s ambassador to Moscow has rejected a potential Russian military base in the country.

Expect Lavrov to use the jet deal and economic talks to demonstrate growing Russian involvement in Indonesia, as well as Southeast Asia generally. Yet Moscow will have much work ahead if it hopes to emerge from the shadow of more dominant regional players—the US and China.

STRUCK OUT

Congo’s Kabila mulls restrictive measures amid tension

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

A second day of opposition-led strikes will rock the Democratic Republic of Congo today.

The country’s patchwork opposition are united by their desire to see President Joseph Kabila step down. Last December, Kabila signed a deal saying he would do just this by holding elections (which he wouldn’t contest) by the end of 2017.

Today’s strike comes days after 15 people were killed in clashes with security forces. A further 50 were killed on Friday in the country’s southeast; the central African state is once again teetering on the brink of widespread violence.

In response, President Kabila’s allies are calling for a state of emergency. Mr Kabila has repeatedly cited ongoing instability to postpone elections; a declaration of martial law would fit this pattern, allowing him to void last December’s deal and extend his 17-year reign.

For now, it appears the government has taken a half measure. Authorities have instructed telecommunication firms to slow the internet to prevent the sharing of “abusive” images on social media ahead of today’s strike.

Delve deeper: Kabila’s Congo: the end of an era

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Photo: NNI

Photo: NNI

Pakistan’s ousted PM, Nawaz Sharif, will begin a two-day drive from Islamabad to Lahore, stopping at major towns on the way to rally supporters. Tens of thousands are expected to greet Mr Sharif brandishing banners that insist he is “still the people’s prime minister”. Meanwhile, Sharif’s Muslim League-Nawaz party has dropped plans to install his brother, Shahbaz, as prime minister, preferring instead to keep him as chief minister of politically-crucial Punjab—where more than half the country lives. Instead, reports are emerging that Nawaz may decide to contest next year’s election himself. Watch this space.

Keep an eye out for the results of Kenya’s mammoth election, which are expected to trickle out later today.

Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, the country’s largest, is expected to report record annual earnings of some $7.8 billion. But it’s not all good news: last week authorities accused Commonwealth of tens of thousands of regulatory breaches, which could cost the company billions in fines. In response, the bank has cut short-term bonuses for executives. The move is partly designed to preempt an internal vote in November when shareholders will be asked to approve executive pay packets; if they don’t, the company’s board will be dismissed.