Tag Archives: election

Comedian upsets Ukraine's president in landslide election victory

Comedian upsets Ukraine's president in landslide election victoryA comedian who plays the president on television has turned art into real life in a landslide election against the incumbent in conflict-torn Ukraine, according to exit polls. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, had 73 per cent of the vote against 26 per cent for Petro Poroshenko, 53, who was elected after protests toppled a pro-Russian leader in 2014. The story is remarkably similar to the hit show Servant of the People, where a teacher played by Mr Zelenskiy is elected president on the strength of a viral video rant. A lack of reform since the 2014 revolution has fuelled support for the outsider promising to fight corruption and leave after one term. Mr Zelenskiy easily won the first round of voting albeit without a majority.  But his superficial campaign of comedy shows and social media videos has offered little insight on how the political neophyte will achieve this with a parliament mostly allegiant to Mr Poroshenko. “Thank you to all Ukrainians, wherever you are located. I promise I will never let you down,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a victory speech that lasted less than three minutes. “To all citizens of post-Soviet countries: Look at us. Anything is possible,” he added.  Mr Poroshenko congratulated his opponent on victory shortly after the polls closed, saying the election had been fair and shown Ukraine to be an “independent European country”. The candidate previously betrayed his inexperience when he posed with his filled-in ballot on Sunday, a violation of election laws that earned him a police citation.  Now the poorest country in Europe, Ukraine and its 42 million people stand at the forefront of tensions between Russia and the West, fighting a low-level conflict with Moscow-backed separatists that continues to claim lives. Mr Zelenskiy has said he would meet Vladimir Putin and involve the UK and United States in new talks to solve the conflict, but also promised not to lift the economic blockade on the separatist-held areas.  An advisor to the Kremlin told The Telegraph that a plan reported last week to give Russian passports to residents of these breakaway republics was meant as a test for the incoming Ukrainian leader. Before casting his ballot, Mr Poroshenko went to a service at St Michael's monastery in Kiev, highlighting his success in obtaining recognition for a new Ukrainian Orthodox church independent of Russia. President Petro Poroshenko casts his vote on Sunday Credit: Sergei Supinsky/AFP Ukraine is now the only country besides Israel with a Jewish president and prime minister, as both Mr Zelenskiy and Volodymyr Groysman have Jewish heritage. Sunday's vote ended a dirty campaign that culminated in a venomous debate at Kiev's 70,000-seat Olympic stadium on Friday evening. Mr Poroshenko has been accused of “black PR” against his opponent following a video showing Mr Zelenskiy being hit by a lorry. A format where the candidates asked questions of each other quickly devolved into recriminations touching on the scandals in which both have been embroiled. Returning to central motifs of his campaign, Mr Poroshenko said Mr Zelenskiy was unprepared to stand up to Vladimir Putin and suggested he was a puppet of self-exiled oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, owner of the channel that broadcasts his shows.  Mr Zelenskiy pointed out that the president was the owner of a candy-making empire that until 2017 had a factory in Russia, accusing him of enriching his friends while in power. He repeatedly threatened to put Mr Poroshenko on trial.  The president dismissed Mr Zelenskiy's allegations as “rubbish”. The spectre of Mr Kolomoisky will continue to loom over Mr Zelenskiy as president, however.  Just days before the vote, a court ruled that the oligarch's PrivatBank was illegally nationalised after a $ 5.5 billion hole was found in its accounts. Any move to hand the bank back is sure to be opposed by the international monetary fund, a vital creditor for Ukraine.  A Femen activist staged a topless protest outside a Kiev polling station on Sunday, warning that a Zelenskiy presidency end up being a “funny mistake”. Mr Poroshenko said in his conciliatory remarks that he would not leave politics but rather continue to fight for reform. He and former PM Yulia Tymoshenko may be planning “to take their revenge during the parliamentary elections” in October, analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told The Telegraph. The prime minister's position could become even more important if lawmakers attempt long-discussed reforms to strip some powers from the president.  Russia's troll factory was also accused of buying Ukrainians' Facebook accounts to spread disinformation before the vote.  Last week, the authorities arrested seven men in what they said was a Russian plot to assassinate Ukrainian officials. One of the men injured himself when a car bomb he was setting in Kiev exploded in his face.



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How 11 People Try to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest Election

How 11 People Try to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest ElectionOne of the operations most vital to Facebook Inc. at this moment is a world away from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and in more ways than one. This is Boom Live, one of seven tiny fact-checking firms at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to rebuild some of its credibility during India’s elections. Based on the early tallies, more than 60 percent of India’s 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots between now and May 19, as the center-left Congress Party tries to seize power from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.



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Israeli election may have dimmed hopes for 2-state solution

Israeli election may have dimmed hopes for 2-state solutionJERUSALEM (AP) — Is the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dead?



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Mueller report: ‘Beyond implausible’ Trump team was unaware of Russian election interference, says legal expert

Mueller report: ‘Beyond implausible’ Trump team was unaware of Russian election interference, says legal expertWith the release of the Mueller investigation on Thursday, albeit in lightly redacted form, there are now as many questions as there are answers.And while the investigation did not find evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, it uncovered “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government”. The Independent spoke to legal expert and writer Colin Kalmbacher, who had much to say about Mr Mueller’s findings. The report highlighted that multiple members of the Trump campaign received some form of communication from Russian officials. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Alex van der Zwaan, Konstantin Kilimnik, and 25 Russian nationals were indicted by the Special Counsel. On that, Mr Kalmbacher said that: “It’s beyond implausible the Trump Administration was unaware of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any sleight-of-hand responses from administration officials that downplay such knowledge are not only off-base but, because they’re so ridiculous, also read as suspect.”President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr, and other campaign officials have touted the claim of “no collusion” as the Special Counsel was “unable” to come to the conclusion that the group “willfully” violated the law in the case of the Trump Tower meeting, or intentionally colluded with Russia, but could not prove overall that justice was not obstructed. Mr Kalmbacher said that "it is imperative to differentiate between: (1) Russian government actors; and (2) non-governmental actors. Mr Mueller’s redacted report – and years’ worth of public knowledge – have established that highly placed Trump 2016 campaign officials made contact with Russian nationals not directly affiliated with the Russian Federation.” “In other words, obviously the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians but there’s nothing immoral, illegal or otherwise untoward about that. Only the most irresponsible and reckless – and almost certainly incorrect – reporting has suggested that Trump campaign apparatchiks actually had conspiratorial meetings with Russian Federation agents keyed toward cheating Donald Trump across the finish line by way of razor-thin margins in the Midwestern United States.” “As far as the latter is concerned, if I were summing up the extent of the Trump campaign’s efforts with Russian Federation agents, I’d have to emphasise the Mueller report's bottom-line finding that 'the investigation did not establish such coordination.'"As for the charges laid against Manafort in Virginia? They weren't linked to collusion at all. Mr Kalmbacher said: “I covered the Manafort trial in Virginia in person. This was all fairly run-of-the-mill gilded upper crust tax evasion and bank fraud. In other words: the story of American wealth. It would have been nice if the Manafort prosecution led to an American Spring focused on uprooting the methods by which the wealthy and well-connected game our system: but that’s not where things were headed. Manafort, the president's former campaign manager, was in March sentenced to nearly four years in prison on tax and bank fraud."You could prosecute most people who make over six figures for the same kind of stuff Manafort was convicted of in Virginia – but our system is actually set up to facilitate white collar crime – and none of that had anything directly to do with politics; he was interested in finding ways to launder his money earned in Ukraine, sure. But even these white collar crimes were fairly pedestrian stuff: lying on his taxes, hiding income, inflating assets. Is this the kind of thing society really thinks people should be caged for?”The section on Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials begins with: “The Trump Campaign showed interested in WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials throughout the summer of 2016,” and is mostly redacted from that point.The report states “On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. Within days, there was public reporting that US Intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC.”Was Mr Mueller aware that the Trump campaign knew the emails were going to be released before they were? Mr Kalmbacher believes so.He replied, “Well, yes. But that’s hardly surprising – and not the least bit incriminating – because Wikileaks themselves teased the existence of the leaks before they were released.”Continuing, he added: “This is one of the more hare-brained episodes in the entire Russiagate drama. The idea that a hatchet man like Roger Stone had access to some secret pool of knowledge or that he was buddying around with Julian Assange in a bid to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. It’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s no need for grand designs or cloak-and-dagger espionage. We’re not dealing with a Graham Greene character here. Anyone on either side of the equation should think twice about romancing Roger Stone. He’s not a scheming mastermind or a windswept hero. The Trump campaign knew about potentially harmful Clinton-related releases because Roger Stone was capable of using a Twitter account.”The report notes that "Beginning in June 2016, [redacted] forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton. WikiLeaks‘s first release came in July 2016.’" "What an interesting coincidence," said Mr Kalmbacher. "Except that it’s not interesting whatsoever.”“Wikileaks publically teased the forthcoming release of Clinton-centric data in May of 2016. May comes before June. The real story here – and the revealing piece of information – is why it took Roger Stone at least two weeks to alert his superiors about this impending release. That’s hardly expert timing or even great ability to read for comprehension. But, of course, it’s not Roger Stone’s timing or reading comprehension that’s important here. The key point: the narrative of Stone’s scheming nefariousness is almost completely fictitious.”As for the legal implications of the report? “Most of the report on this subject is redacted. So, there are, presumably legal implications and I’d imagine the lines dedicated to those implications outline some of the still-working parts in the ongoing Stone prosecution.”Mr Kalmbacher continued: “More directly: don’t be so stupid as to lie about non-crimes. Other than that, no. There’s nothing illegal about relying on Wikileaks for campaign dirt. Wikileaks is a publishing company. They provide information – they do journalism – that powerful people do not like."Mr Mueller has decided to not prosecute those involved with the Trump tower meeting (Donald J Trump Jr, Manafort, and Jared Kushner) despite Mr Trump Jr setting up the meeting due to the offer of “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father” as there was no proof that they “willfully” violated the law. But which campaign law is this based on, and what exactly about their behaviour didn't violate it? “This is based on 11 CFR 110.20. I’ve actually written about why Mr Mueller wouldn’t charge Trump Jr. over this meeting before. Turns out my prediction was half right. Mr Mueller, like most lawyers, has a habit of arguing with himself. In essence he decided not to prosecute Trump Jr. for two reasons: (1) it would be hard to classify opposition research as “a thing of value” and this would have been the first time in US history that such an effort would have been made; and (2) because of a tick (feature or bug?) in campaign finance law, ignorance of the law actually is an excuse and here, Mr Mueller determined that Trump Jr. was not familiar with the intricacies of campaign finance law. Who really is, though? Campaign Legal Center – that’s about it. "Mr Mueller is a conservative Republican whose interests and loyalties are pretty clear – he wasn’t there to rock the boat or make precedent. So, it’s no surprise that he didn’t go after the 45th president’s oldest son.”Finally, why did none of this add up to collusion? “Collusion was almost always never going to be proved or shown simply because it’s not the legal term of art applicable here.” He continued: “Collusion only exists in antitrust law in the US. I can’t recall exactly when or how it transposed itself into our cultural lexicon but it’s basically been used as a smokescreen."Mueller obviously can’t prove something that’s entirely inapplicable. But, again, prosecutors can easily prove conspiracy if they want to. They can easily prove campaign finance crimes if they want to. They can easily go after regulatory infractions a la Manafort if they want to.”“The decision not to charge here was a conscious one not to create controversy because the case, if charged, would have, simply, ruined people’s lives. And, it seems, Mueller didn’t deem that damage equivalent to the potential crimes he probably saw."



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Vladimir Putin's team doesn't like Robert Mueller's report on election interference, Trump

Vladimir Putin's team doesn't like Robert Mueller's report on election interference, TrumpKremlin seeks to downplay the findings of the special counsel on Russia's election activity in the United States.



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Trump must release his tax returns or be barred from state’s 2020 election ballot, Illinois senate votes

Trump must release his tax returns or be barred from state’s 2020 election ballot, Illinois senate votesDonald Trump will have to release five years of tax returns if he wants appear on the Illinois 2020 presidential ballot, the state's senate has ruled. The bill, which still requires approval by the Prairie State's House of Representatives, comes amid a growing row in Washington over Mr Trump’s unprecedented refusal to make publicly available his income tax returns. The US Treasury ignored a congressional deadline to release the documents earlier this week. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed the request by the House ways and means committee was “politically motivated”. Mr Trump himself has claimed that he cannot release his tax returns because they are under audit, although technically there is nothing preventing him from doing so. In Illinois, the bill would need to be signed into law by Democratic governor Jay Robert Pritzjer, if it passes through the House which is also controlled by Mr Trump's political rivals. Mr Pritzjer is yet to take a public stance on the issue. Tony Munoz, the state senator who sponsored the bill said: “If you want to run for vice president or president of the United States, hey, what’s wrong with providing your tax returns for the past five years?” The veteran Democrat added: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about anything. That’s how I see it.”But the move drew complaints from Republicans in the senate. “This is, quite frankly, with all due respect to the sponsor, an embarrassing waste of the senate’s time,” said Dale Righter. “This is being pushed by a far-leftist organisation from the city of Chicago that wants to be able to get up and chirp about the president of the United States."Ilinois is not the only state where legislation to codify standard practices surrounding tax disclosures for presidential candidates is being advanced. The Washington state senate last month approved legislation that would legally require all presidential candidates to release the last five years of their personal tax returns in order to have their names featured on both primary and general voting ballots.New Jersey has also advanced a similar bill to the state’s general assembly that would force candidates to disclose their recent tax returns.



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Final Israeli election results boost Netanyahu's lead

Final Israeli election results boost Netanyahu's leadJERUSALEM (AP) — A final count of election ballots on Thursday granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party an additional seat in parliament, making it the largest faction in the Knesset and punctuating the Israeli leader's victory.



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A look at the winners and losers in Israel's election

A look at the winners and losers in Israel's electionJERUSALEM (AP) — After a campaign widely seen as a referendum on his rule, Benjamin Netanyahu is the winner of Israel's election as he heads toward a record-setting fifth term as prime minister.



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The Latest: Gantz's party concedes defeat in Israel election

The Latest: Gantz's party concedes defeat in Israel electionJERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the outcome of Israeli elections (all times local):



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Projected results of Israel election

Projected results of Israel electionWith nearly all votes in Israel’s general election counted, here is the preliminary distribution of seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, according to Israeli media calculations. Incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud was on path for victory despite being tied with Blue and White since he would be able to form a coalition government with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox partners.



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