Wednesday, January 24

Wednesday, January 24

A CRITICAL DECISION Brazilian appeals court rules on former president’s corruption sentence Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be in Porto Alegre today to find out whether his nine-and-a-half-year sentence for graft and money laundering will be upheld. Found guilty last July, it’s expected that the three-judge panel will preserve the sentence—indeed a

A CRITICAL DECISION

Brazilian appeals court rules on former president’s corruption sentence

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Photo: Douglas Magno/AFP

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be in Porto Alegre today to find out whether his nine-and-a-half-year sentence for graft and money laundering will be upheld.

Found guilty last July, it’s expected that the three-judge panel will preserve the sentence—indeed a unanimous vote could see the former president imprisoned within the next month.

Today’s decision will be critical in deciding October’s general election, as upholding the decision would bar Lula from running for Brazil’s presidency. Remarkably, Lula is by far the most popular candidate for the top job, with polls showing he has some 36% of support. Comparatively, his nearest rival, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, is backed by only 18% of the electorate.

If his conviction is overturned, Lula can be expected to slam his original sentence as politically motivated, strongly boosting his popularity and chances of regaining the presidency, which would see Brazil swing to the left. In stark contrast, an upheld decision will boost the hopes of Bolsonaro, a former military man who likens himself to Donald Trump.

UNITED IN DIVISION

Former high-ranking Vietnamese officials jailed for graft

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Photo: Doan Tan/Vietnam News Agency

A bad week is about to get worse for Trinh Xuan Thanh. The ex-chief of PetroVietnam’s construction arm was sentenced to life for embezzlement on Monday and will face another trial on similar charges today.

Mr Thanh is one of 21 former officials sentenced for graft, including ex-Transport Minister Dinh La Thang—an ally of Vietnam’s former PM and the most senior ex-official to be jailed in decades.

Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong insists the moves are “widely supported by the people”; critics say they’re politically motivated. Indeed, almost all the accused have links to ex-PM Nguyen Tan Dung—who led liberalisation efforts from 2006 to 2016.

The arrests are a symptom of a power struggle within the Communist Party. Led by Mr Trong, a conservative faction is determined to curb the influence of the former PM and his allies.

While the Party says it’s committed to reform efforts, including the privatisation of state-owned firms and a 10% reduction in public employees, the political turbulence will harm investor confidence in Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economy.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

ASEAN leaders gather in New Delhi ahead of key regional summit

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Photo: ASEAN

Leaders from 10 Southeast Asian countries arrive in New Delhi today, ahead of the 15th India-ASEAN Summit, which begins on Wednesday.

With India and ASEAN accounting for some 30% of the global population and a combined GDP of $5.1 trillion, economic collaboration is likely to top the agenda.

Despite signing a free trade agreement in 2010, economic relations between the two leave much to be desired. Bilateral trade stood at just $70 billion last year—worth a mere 2.6% of ASEAN’s total trade and a long way off the $200 billion target set for 2022. To remedy this, discussions will likely focus on infrastructure projects between India and South-East Asia, such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway.

As China plans several of its own infrastructure projects with Southeast Asian countries, the summit could demonstrate the intensifying rivalry between India and China for regional influence. With investment, trade and particularly infrastructure likely to improve because of India-China competition, ASEAN countries stand to reap the benefits of the growing regional rivalry.