22 March 2017

Playing politics with diasporic communities: Southeast Asia's lessons for the EU

Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make Turkey great again!
Mr Recep Erdogan has been organising, in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, an unprecedented series of campaign rallies for the upcoming Turkish national referendum to confer unprecedented powers in the presidency.

And even though the European Union has a thing for suicide pacts (yes to unlimited immigration, yes to no checks on refugees, yes to imposing debt bondage on the PIGS, yes to an illogical currency union!), European leaders are mostly not amused. Erdogan's rallies have been completely banned in Austria, cancelled in Germany, and created a victory for the right in the recent Dutch elections (which the media has spun as a loss for the far-right because Geert Wilders didn't win big).

Erdogan is not amused either. So much for EU-Turkey relations (Germany's secret deals notwithstanding), and so much for Turkey's EU membership ambitions? Not quite.

03 March 2017

Hard Talk with the Prime Minister: Singapore loses the plot

HARDTalk interviews are hardly a fireside chat

Did prime minister Lee Hsien Loong "do us proud" yesterday, or did he stutter, freeze, and turn all defensive? It is unlikely that PM Lee thought his BBC HARDTalk interview with Stephen Sackur would be a walk in the park, much less a fireside chat. His father had appeared on the same show several years ago and turned in a feisty performance.

It is far likely that Lee's media team is aware of the performative aspects of an international interview, given the pre-approved trailer showing Lee throw out a combative line: "I would not presume to tell you how your press council should operate, why would you presume to tell me my country should run?"

But if we are to judge if that's a winning line or a defensive cover, we cannot take that line out of context.