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Sanctions Threaten North Korea’s Old and New Elites

By all accounts, North Korea’s cash-strapped economy is flagging under crippling international sanctions and the slowdown means the traditional elite and a rising merchant class may be feeling pinched, experts say.

“The elites in Pyongyang are really feeling it,” said Joshua Stanton, a Washington attorney who helped draft the North Korean Sanctions Enforcement Act in 2016.

“They’re having a very tough time right now. I think they’re losing their wealth rapidly. And they’re concerned about the government’s policies and directions, and the failure to get sanctions lifted in Hanoi,” he continued.

North Korean aristocrats

The most privileged government and military officials, considered North Korea’s aristocrats, are estimated to number about 2,000 people. Born into families who backed the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung in the 1940s and 1950s, they are fiercely loyal to the Kim dynasty, said William Brown, former CIA analyst and a North Korea economy expert.

Despite their fealty to current leader Kim Jong Un, this top echelon of what is supposed to be a classless society is losing money. The state-run enterprises they control in the centrally planned socialist economy — heavy industries such as mining and light industries such as textile and clothing factories — have been hit hard by the sanctions that President Donald Trump refused to lift at the Hanoi summit earlier this year, demanding that North Korea agree to full denuclearization as a precondition for relief.

These families share their profits from state enterprises with a newer privileged class, the merchants called donju, who help the aristocrats by facilitating the export of goods produced from state-run mines, farms and factories or by selling them domestically now that sanctions make overseas trade difficult, Brown, the economy expert, said.

Similar to oligarchs or private entrepreneurs and capitalists by the Western standards, the donju emerged from the market economy, which grew out of the country’s worst famine in the 1990s as workers, paid by the state in food rations, started trading whatever they could find for food on black markets. The markets established in a time of shortages were legitimized, then encouraged under Kim. Today, the donju partner with the elite families, providing funds for construction projects such as building apartments in Pyongyang while the families provide labor, usually workers they re-assign from state-owned enterprises.

“The donju touch on about just everything, everything from construction to manufacturing to things happening in the markets to transportation issues,” said Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses.

“Right now, they’re under increasing pressure in terms of … getting the hard currency that they need in order to continue to do various projects that they do inside North Korea, which allows them to maintain their influence that they have within the regime and on the society,” he added. 

​Limiting luxuries, confiscating wealth

Unlike ordinary North Koreans, members of these privileged classes enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Some drive imported cars. Some occasionally travel abroad. Others send their children to the country’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University, Kim Jong Un’s alma mater.

But as the government runs ever shorter on hard currency, it’s confiscating their wealth.

“[The] North Korean government has always historically used a lot of its money to keep those people happy,” said Stanton, listing gifts of luxury goods, apartments and “access to … material wealth.”

But that’s changing, Stanton said, “because the government is running out of money, it’s doing a lot of anti-corruption investigations and inspections. It’s trying to find their money, their savings, any cash that they have stored away, any bank accounts that they have in China, any wealth that they’ve accumulated.”

The overall lack of cash and the government’s confiscation of what it finds among the elite are creating discontent but not so much as to trigger organized unrest.

“They could put pressure on Kim definitely,” Brown said. “But [as] more of a loyal opposition rather than a radical opposition. I think … the most likely unrest would come from workers, state enterprise laborers, miners, people who are working for the state and who are barely being paid at all, and have to go into the marketplace to make a living.”

​A ‘mounting toll’

In October 2006, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s first nuclear weapons test. They were designed to pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear ambitions by banning sales to Pyongyang of heavy weaponry, missile technology and material, and select luxury goods, according to a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder. In March 2016, the UNSC sanctioned sales of aviation fuel to North Korea after its fourth nuclear test.

Since November 2016, after Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test, the UNSC has aimed sanctions at North Korea’s economy by banning its export of key commodities such as copper, coal, seafood, textiles and labor.

The sanctions were aimed at cutting off foreign currency flowing into the country — most of the wages paid to North Korean workers contracted to work overseas ended up in Pyongyang — and the UNSC capped North Korea’s imports of the crude oil and refined petroleum that the country needs to sustain its economy and run the military.

Since Trump took office in 2017, the U.S. has issued its own set of sanctions through the so-called “maximum pressure campaign,” which blocks from the U.S. financial system any foreign business or individual involved in trade with North Korea, and exposes any assets of the foreign businesses or individual to seizure by the U.S. government. Last week, U.S. officials seized a North Korean ship allegedly used in the illegal coal trade.

“I’m convinced that the international and other sanctions on North Korea are taking a mounting toll on [North Korean] economy,” said Evans Revere, former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration.

“The pressure from sanctions and related measures may not now be enough to destabilize the regime,” he added, “but if these measures remain in place, and especially if more sanctions and other measures are applied, they have the potential to do so.”

Economic growth impaired

According to a report on 38North, a website devoted to analyzing North Korea, the growth rate of the country’s economy in 2018 was 4.6%, the lowest since 2006, based on the assessment it made from the data on North Korea’s 2019 budget reported at its parliamentary session in April. 

“This corresponds with Western reports on sanctions, especially those issued since 2017, having an impact on North Korea’s economy,” the report said.

Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Korean Economic Institute, said, “Kim Jong Un does face a dilemma” of how long he can “continue on the current path without sanctions relief.”

Many coal mines in North Korea are reportedly closed because of a drop in coal exports, and transportation and military sectors are also struggling because they are running short on raw materials.

Scores of government-backed factories closed after the Hanoi summit, and workers were told to find work elsewhere because the factories are unable to keep the lights on, pay their workers or provide food rations.

“What we have now is a situation where North Korea’s heavy industry appears to be collapsing,” Stanton said. “The effect of this is going to become more noticeable in the coming weeks and months.”

Rations reduced

North Korea is currently facing a food crisis with more than 10 million people estimated to be without enough food to last until next year, according to a U.N. report on the country’s food security issued earlier this month.

As the state-enterprises are failing, displaced factory workers are turning to the private markets to make money, much as they did in the 1990s.

“It allows people to get off the official economy, the economy that is controlled by the state, which has basically dried up early since the ’90s, into the 2000s, and the 2010,” Gause said. “That part of the top-down economy has been weaker and weaker, and the markets have basically filled in the gaps.”

Stangarone said, “As long as North Korea’s able to control the flow of information and maintain control of the population, I think this shift towards marketization is probably permanent.”

Gause said, “If [Kim] is not able to show progress on [economy] … either one, he’s got to re-engage in diplomacy with the United States and see if he can get sanctions relief there or he has to potentially go toward more brinkmanship in order to try to reset the chess board.”

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Sanctions Threaten North Korea’s Old and New Elites

By all accounts, North Korea’s cash-strapped economy is flagging under crippling international sanctions and the slowdown means the traditional elite and a rising merchant class may be feeling pinched, experts say.

“The elites in Pyongyang are really feeling it,” said Joshua Stanton, a Washington attorney who helped draft the North Korean Sanctions Enforcement Act in 2016.

“They’re having a very tough time right now. I think they’re losing their wealth rapidly. And they’re concerned about the government’s policies and directions, and the failure to get sanctions lifted in Hanoi,” he continued.

North Korean aristocrats

The most privileged government and military officials, considered North Korea’s aristocrats, are estimated to number about 2,000 people. Born into families who backed the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung in the 1940s and 1950s, they are fiercely loyal to the Kim dynasty, said William Brown, former CIA analyst and a North Korea economy expert.

Despite their fealty to current leader Kim Jong Un, this top echelon of what is supposed to be a classless society is losing money. The state-run enterprises they control in the centrally planned socialist economy — heavy industries such as mining and light industries such as textile and clothing factories — have been hit hard by the sanctions that President Donald Trump refused to lift at the Hanoi summit earlier this year, demanding that North Korea agree to full denuclearization as a precondition for relief.

These families share their profits from state enterprises with a newer privileged class, the merchants called donju, who help the aristocrats by facilitating the export of goods produced from state-run mines, farms and factories or by selling them domestically now that sanctions make overseas trade difficult, Brown, the economy expert, said.

Similar to oligarchs or private entrepreneurs and capitalists by the Western standards, the donju emerged from the market economy, which grew out of the country’s worst famine in the 1990s as workers, paid by the state in food rations, started trading whatever they could find for food on black markets. The markets established in a time of shortages were legitimized, then encouraged under Kim. Today, the donju partner with the elite families, providing funds for construction projects such as building apartments in Pyongyang while the families provide labor, usually workers they re-assign from state-owned enterprises.

“The donju touch on about just everything, everything from construction to manufacturing to things happening in the markets to transportation issues,” said Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses.

“Right now, they’re under increasing pressure in terms of … getting the hard currency that they need in order to continue to do various projects that they do inside North Korea, which allows them to maintain their influence that they have within the regime and on the society,” he added. 

​Limiting luxuries, confiscating wealth

Unlike ordinary North Koreans, members of these privileged classes enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Some drive imported cars. Some occasionally travel abroad. Others send their children to the country’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University, Kim Jong Un’s alma mater.

But as the government runs ever shorter on hard currency, it’s confiscating their wealth.

“[The] North Korean government has always historically used a lot of its money to keep those people happy,” said Stanton, listing gifts of luxury goods, apartments and “access to … material wealth.”

But that’s changing, Stanton said, “because the government is running out of money, it’s doing a lot of anti-corruption investigations and inspections. It’s trying to find their money, their savings, any cash that they have stored away, any bank accounts that they have in China, any wealth that they’ve accumulated.”

The overall lack of cash and the government’s confiscation of what it finds among the elite are creating discontent but not so much as to trigger organized unrest.

“They could put pressure on Kim definitely,” Brown said. “But [as] more of a loyal opposition rather than a radical opposition. I think … the most likely unrest would come from workers, state enterprise laborers, miners, people who are working for the state and who are barely being paid at all, and have to go into the marketplace to make a living.”

​A ‘mounting toll’

In October 2006, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s first nuclear weapons test. They were designed to pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear ambitions by banning sales to Pyongyang of heavy weaponry, missile technology and material, and select luxury goods, according to a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder. In March 2016, the UNSC sanctioned sales of aviation fuel to North Korea after its fourth nuclear test.

Since November 2016, after Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test, the UNSC has aimed sanctions at North Korea’s economy by banning its export of key commodities such as copper, coal, seafood, textiles and labor.

The sanctions were aimed at cutting off foreign currency flowing into the country — most of the wages paid to North Korean workers contracted to work overseas ended up in Pyongyang — and the UNSC capped North Korea’s imports of the crude oil and refined petroleum that the country needs to sustain its economy and run the military.

Since Trump took office in 2017, the U.S. has issued its own set of sanctions through the so-called “maximum pressure campaign,” which blocks from the U.S. financial system any foreign business or individual involved in trade with North Korea, and exposes any assets of the foreign businesses or individual to seizure by the U.S. government. Last week, U.S. officials seized a North Korean ship allegedly used in the illegal coal trade.

“I’m convinced that the international and other sanctions on North Korea are taking a mounting toll on [North Korean] economy,” said Evans Revere, former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration.

“The pressure from sanctions and related measures may not now be enough to destabilize the regime,” he added, “but if these measures remain in place, and especially if more sanctions and other measures are applied, they have the potential to do so.”

Economic growth impaired

According to a report on 38North, a website devoted to analyzing North Korea, the growth rate of the country’s economy in 2018 was 4.6%, the lowest since 2006, based on the assessment it made from the data on North Korea’s 2019 budget reported at its parliamentary session in April. 

“This corresponds with Western reports on sanctions, especially those issued since 2017, having an impact on North Korea’s economy,” the report said.

Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Korean Economic Institute, said, “Kim Jong Un does face a dilemma” of how long he can “continue on the current path without sanctions relief.”

Many coal mines in North Korea are reportedly closed because of a drop in coal exports, and transportation and military sectors are also struggling because they are running short on raw materials.

Scores of government-backed factories closed after the Hanoi summit, and workers were told to find work elsewhere because the factories are unable to keep the lights on, pay their workers or provide food rations.

“What we have now is a situation where North Korea’s heavy industry appears to be collapsing,” Stanton said. “The effect of this is going to become more noticeable in the coming weeks and months.”

Rations reduced

North Korea is currently facing a food crisis with more than 10 million people estimated to be without enough food to last until next year, according to a U.N. report on the country’s food security issued earlier this month.

As the state-enterprises are failing, displaced factory workers are turning to the private markets to make money, much as they did in the 1990s.

“It allows people to get off the official economy, the economy that is controlled by the state, which has basically dried up early since the ’90s, into the 2000s, and the 2010,” Gause said. “That part of the top-down economy has been weaker and weaker, and the markets have basically filled in the gaps.”

Stangarone said, “As long as North Korea’s able to control the flow of information and maintain control of the population, I think this shift towards marketization is probably permanent.”

Gause said, “If [Kim] is not able to show progress on [economy] … either one, he’s got to re-engage in diplomacy with the United States and see if he can get sanctions relief there or he has to potentially go toward more brinkmanship in order to try to reset the chess board.”

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Huawei Founder Sees Little Effect From US Sanctions

Huawei Technologies’ founder and chief executive said Saturday that the growth of the Chinese tech giant “may slow, but only slightly,” because of recent U.S. restrictions.  

 

In remarks to the Japanese press and reported by Nikkei Asian Review, Ren Zhengfei reiterated that the Chinese telecom equipment maker had not violated any law. 

“It is expected that Huawei’s growth may slow, but only slightly,” Ren said in his first official comments after the U.S. restrictions, adding that the company’s annual revenue growth might undershoot 20%.  

 

On Thursday, Washington put Huawei, one of China’s biggest and most successful companies, on a trade blacklist that could make it extremely difficult for Huawei to do business with U.S. companies. China slammed the decision, saying it would take steps to protect its companies. 

Trade, security issues

 

The developments surrounding Huawei come at a time of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and amid concerns from the United States that Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied. 

 

A similar U.S. ban on China’s ZTE Corp. had almost crippled business for the smaller Huawei rival early last year before the curb was lifted. 

 

The U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that it might soon scale back restrictions on Huawei. 

 

Ren said the company was prepared for such a step and that Huawei would be “fine” even if U.S. smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. and other American suppliers would not sell chips to the company. 

 

Huawei’s chip arm HiSilicon said Friday that it had long been prepared for the possibility of being denied U.S. chips and technology, and that it was able to ensure a steady supply of most products. 

 

The Huawei founder said that the company would not be taking instructions from the U.S. government. 

 

“We will not change our management at the request of the U.S. or accept monitoring, as ZTE has done,” he said.

In January, U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing the Chinese company of engaging in bank fraud to obtain embargoed U.S. goods and services in Iran and to move money out of the country via the international banking system. 

 

Ren’s daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December in connection with the indictment. Meng, who was released on bail, remains in Vancouver and is fighting extradition. She has maintained her innocence.  

 

Ren has previously said his daughter’s arrest was politically motivated.

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US OKs Possible $314M Missile Deal for S. Korea 

The U.S. State Department has cleared $314 million in possible sales of air defense missiles to South Korea, the Pentagon said, as tensions re-emerge on the Korean Peninsula. 

 

South Korea, a key Asian ally of the United States, asked to buy up to 94 SM-2 missiles used by ships against air threats, along with 12 guidance systems and technical assistance, for a total cost of $313.9 million, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on its website. The agency, a unit of the Department of Defense, delivered certification on Thursday notifying Congress of the possible sale. 

 

The proposed sale, announced Friday by the Pentagon, comes after North Korea recently criticized South Korea’s defense purchases from the United States, including the arrival of the first F-35 stealth aircraft. 

 

With denuclearization talks stalled after a second summit between North Korea and United States broke down in Hanoi in February, North Korea went ahead with more weapons tests this month. 

 

The reclusive North and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty. 

 

South Korea already uses SM-2 missiles developed by Raytheon Co., but is building more missile defense-capable destroyers equipped with the weapon. 

 

North Korea has boasted about its indigenous surface-to-air missiles. 

 

Separately, Japan, another key U.S. ally in the region, was also cleared to buy $317 million worth of medium-range air-to-air missiles from Washington, the DSCA said.

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Counting Starts in Australian Poll with Opposition Confident

Votes were being counted in Australia’s general election on Saturday, with senior opposition lawmakers gaining confidence that they will form a center-left government with a focus on slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

A Galaxy exit poll found that the opposition Labor Party could win as many as 82 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form government.

 

“I feel positive. I feel like we are ahead, but I am more cautiously optimistic than confident,” Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said.

 

Voting in Australia’s eastern states, where most of the 25 million population lives, ended at 6 p.m. (0800 GMT). Polls close on the west coast two hours later.

 

Opinion polls suggest the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition will lose its bid for a third three-year term and Scott Morrison will have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.

 

Morrison is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were first elected in 2013. He replaced Malcolm Turnbull in a leadership ballot of government colleagues in August.

 

Morrison began the day campaigning in the island state of Tasmania in seats he hopes his party will win from the center-left Labor Party opposition. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.

 

Opposition leader Bill Shorten had said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.

 

“Tonight the votes will be counted up and we’ll see what the outcome is. I make no assumptions about tonight,” Morrison said after casting his vote.

 

Outside the polling booth, Morrison was approached by a demonstrator protesting the proposed Adani coal mine that the government recently approved. But security intercepted her before she could reach the prime minister.

 

Shorten contained his campaigning to polling centers in his home town of Melbourne, where he voted Saturday morning.

 

Shorten said he expected that Labor would start governing from Sunday. He said his top priorities would be to increase wages for low-paid workers, hike pay rates for working Sundays and reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

“The world will know that if Labor gets elected, Australia’s back in the fight against climate change,” he said.

 

Shorten has been campaigning hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. It is also one of the world’s worst carbon gas polluters per capita because of a heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity.

 

As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as wildfires and destructive storms.

 

The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.

 

Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.

 

Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, said he had closed Labor’s lead in opinion polls during the five-week campaign and predicted a close result.

 

Morrison promises lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.

 

An opinion poll published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday put Labor ahead of the conservatives 51.5% to 48.5. The Newspoll-brand poll was based on a nationwide survey of 3,038 voters from Monday to Friday. It has a 1.8 percentage point margin of error.

 

Political analyst William Bowe said it was unclear how the greater support for Labor evident in polls would translate into seats.

 

He said the conservatives had been “trying to plot a narrow path to victory” by targeting their campaigning on vulnerable Labor seats in Sydney, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

 

A factor that was not fully reflected in the latest poll was the death Thursday night of former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke. He is widely praised for the economic reforms that his government achieved from 1983 until 1991, and his support for Shorten was expected to boost Labor’s vote.

 

Both major parties are promising that whoever wins the election will remain prime minister until he next faces the voters’ judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.

 

During Labor’s last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.

 

 

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North Korea Asks UN to Address Ship Seizure by ‘Gangster’ US

North Korea has asked United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deal with the “illegal” seizure of one of its cargo ships by the United States, state media said Saturday.

“This act of dispossession has clearly indicated that the United States is indeed a gangster country that does not care at all about international laws,” the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations said in a letter sent to Guterres dated Friday, according to North Korea’s KCNA news agency.

Pyongyang’s protest to the United Nations over the seizure comes amid mounting tensions since a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, aimed at bringing about the denuclearization of the North, broke down in Hanoi in February.

The letter also called for “urgent measures” by Guterres and claimed that Washington infringed the North’s sovereignty and violated U.N. charters.

With the denuclearization talks stalled, North Korea went ahead with more weapons tests this month. The tests were seen as a protest by Kim after Trump rejected his calls for sanctions relief at the Hanoi summit.

North Korea has said the ship seizure violated the spirit of the summit and demanded the return of the vessel without delay.

The U.S. Justice Department said the North Korean cargo ship, known as the “Wise Honest,” was seized and impounded to American Samoa. The vessel was accused of illicit coal shipments in violation of sanctions and was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018.

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Lawbreakers to Lawmakers? The ‘Criminal Candidates’ Standing in India’s Election

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has one unwanted lead in this month’s general election race – according to data from an electoral watchdog it is fielding the most candidates among the major parties who are facing criminal charges. Its main rival, Congress, is just a step behind.

Election laws allow such candidates to run so long as they have not been convicted, on grounds both of fairness and because India’s criminal justice system moves so slowly that trials can take years, or even decades, to be resolved.

Still, the number of such candidates accused of offenses ranging from murder to rioting has been rising with each election.

Analysts say political parties turn to them because they often have the deepest pockets in steadily costlier elections, and that some local strongmen are seen as having the best chance of winning.

Nearly one-in-five candidates running for parliament in the current election has an outstanding criminal case against them, inching up from 17% in the previous election and 15% in 2009, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit organization that analyzed candidates’ declarations.

The data shows that 40% candidates from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP face criminal charges, including crimes against women and murder, followed by the Congress party at 39%.

Among the smaller parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has an even higher proportion, with 58 percent of its candidates embroiled in criminal cases.

Polls have suggested that the BJP and its allies lead the race to win the mammoth, staggered election that began last month and ends on Sunday. Votes will be counted on Thursday.

​”Parties only think about winnability and they know that money power and muscle power of such candidates ensures that win,” said Anil Verma, head of the ADR.

With 240 cases against him, K Surendran of the BJP tops the list of candidates with the most outstanding criminal complaints that include rioting, criminal trespass and attempted murder.

He said most of the cases stem from his involvement in theBJP campaign to oppose the entry of women and girls of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in his home state of Kerala.

“I understand that an outsider might feel that I am a grave offender but, in reality, I am completely innocent of these charges,” he said. “It was all politically motivated.”

Dean Kuriakose from the Congress party has 204 criminal cases against him, the second highest, the data showed. Most of the cases were related to a political agitation against the ruling Communist Party in Kerala, which turned violent.

He was not available for comment. But a party spokesman said Kuriakose was innocent. “He was falsely charged by the police under influence from Kerala government,” the spokesman said. 

Political analysts say that often people vote for candidates who face criminal charges because they are seen as best placed to deliver results. In some parts of India local strongmen mediate in disputes and dispense justice.

“Powerful people, even if criminals, offer a kind of parallel system of redressal,” said K.C. Suri, a professor of political science at the University of Hyderabad.

A separate ADR survey of more than 250,000 voters last year found 98% felt candidates with criminal backgrounds should not be in parliament, though 35% said they were willing to vote for such a candidate on caste grounds or if the candidate had done “good work” in the past.

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Australian Leader Says 2 Rwandans No Longer Massacre Suspects

Australia’s prime minister said on Friday that two Rwandan refugees who resettled in Australia after 15 years in U.S. detention are no longer suspects in the massacre of eight tourists in Uganda 20 years ago.

U.S. news outlet Politico reported that former Hutu rebels Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani spent more than a decade in a Virginia state jail before Australia accepted them last year. The transfer was part of a refugee swap deal in which the United States agreed to resettle up to 1,250 refugees who Australia banishes to immigration camps on the poor Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said both men had been cleared of suspicion in the ax and machete slayings of four Britons, two Americans and two New Zealanders who were in a Ugandan wild park in 1999 to see mountain gorillas.

“These specific allegations were reviewed by our security agencies and by our immigration authorities and they were not found to be upheld,” Morrison said. “As a result, they were allowed to come to Australia.”

The questions over the potential threat posed by the refugees are embarrassing for a conservative government that is running for reelection on Saturday on a platform of tougher policies on border protection than their center-left Labor Party opponents. The government argues that Labor would allow criminals who traveled to Australia by boat without documentation to stay as refugees.

Morrison said both men had undergone security and character assessments as well as investigations into whether they were associated with war crimes.

Morrison said: “I know what the claims are. But the claims and facts are different.”

Relatives of the massacre victims are angry with the deal.

DeAnne Haubner Norton’s older brother Rob Haubner, 48, and sister-in-law Susan Miller, 42, were both senior executives of Intel Corp. from Oregon who were killed during their honeymoon.

Haubner Norton told Australian Broadcasting Corp. the refugee swap deal was “clearly bad and a dud.”

The two Rwandans “say, `I don’t want to go to Rwanda; I don’t want them to hurt me,”‘ Haubner Norton said. “Well, my brother was probably saying the same thing as [they] were taking a weapon to him.”

Scottish-born Australian David Roberts’ 23-year-old son Steven Roberts was also killed. The son was a British citizen who lived in the Australian city of Melbourne.

The father, who lives in the Australian city of Perth, called for whoever wins the election to review the decision to allow the Rwandans to settle in Australia.

Roberts said he found it hard to believe that Australia would accept two men with such serious allegations against them in return for refugees held on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island who have no criminal pasts.

“The people they had on Manus Island were innocent people, they weren’t criminals or murderers,” Roberts said.

Senior Labor lawmaker Tony Burke said that if his party wins the election, his government would seek immediate briefings from security agencies “to find out what on earth has happened.”

 

 After the 1999 massacre, U.S. prosecutors charged the men under terrorism statutes, extradited them from Rwanda and demanded federal deaths penalties. But a Washington judge ruled in 2006 that the men’s confessions were obtained through torture in Rwandan detention and the case was dropped.

 

 The men had previously admitted to being members of the Congo-based Liberation Army of Rwanda, which has since changed its name to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda _ a rebel group consisting of former Hutu militiamen and soldiers responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and which continued to fight against the Tutsi-dominated government in Kigali. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

 Both men fought against being returned to Rwanda, but did not have a right to remain in the United States.

 

 Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced at former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in 2016 that Australia would participate in the U.S.-led program to resettle Central American refugees from a camp in Costa Rica. Australia also increased its refugee intake by 5,000 to 18,750 a year.

 

 It later became apparent that Obama had agreed to accept Australia’s refugees who by then had been languishing on the Pacific islands for three years.

 

 President Donald Trump reluctantly agreed to honor the deal, which he described as “dumb,” when he took office in 2017. But Trump promised the refugees would be subject to “extreme vetting” before they were accepted by the United States.

 

 Fewer than 500 refugees have since found new homes in the United States under the deal.