Nigerian economy: Generosity of strangers stuns struggling mother

Shamsiyya Abubakar with her donated rice
Image caption,Strangers have been dropping bags of food off at Shamsiyya Abubakar’s house

Shamsiyya Abubakar had begun to lose hope – Nigeria’s grave economic downturn meant she was scrambling each day to feed her family of nine.

The 32-year-old had resorted to cooking afafata – the rice grain millers normally throw away at the end of the sorting process because it is too tough.

Ms Abubakar, mother to a newborn baby, told BBC Pidgin that her struggles had taken her mind to dark places.

“Sometimes I say to myself: ‘Instead of living like this, wouldn’t it be better to be dead?'” she said in the Hausa language interview, which was widely shared in Nigeria.

But since it was published on Tuesday, strangers have been filing in and out of her house with offers of food and money.

This unexpected response has “changed her life”, she said when the BBC caught up with her for a second time.

“I have never seen such huge amounts of money in my life… I am really grateful.

“I got cash from several people, while others brought bags of good rice and maize, so we have enough good food to eat now,” she added.

Her husband Haruna Abubakar also expressed delight at their change of fortune.

“On the day of the BBC video, we had nothing to eat, I struggled to get them 500 naira (£0.25; $0.32) to buy cups of rice,” he said.

“Today, I am a happy man as our lives has changed and we have enough to eat.”

Ms Abubakar with a dish of broken, tough rice grains
Image caption,A video of Ms Abubakar telling the BBC about her struggle sparked an outpouring of help

Sani Isah, one of those who took supplies for the family, said Ms Abubakar’s story made him cry. Mr Isah added that he felt compelled to help with the little he had.

“I think her case is a shame to our leaders, I actually wept after watching her video. How can someone pray for death instead of wanting to live just because of food?” he asked.

“I pray that others in her type of situation will also get the help they need that will change their lives.”

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation, which has led to widespread hardship and anger.

On Tuesday, thousands took to the streets in a nationwide protest against the government’s handling of the economy.

The steep price of food has been a major source of frustration.

Rice, a staple in Nigeria, has more than doubled in cost over the past year. Ms Abubakar is far from alone in turning to the broken, dirty and tough afafata grains – its relatively low price has helped many struggling families in the north survive. Several others have been forced to go hungry or ration the food they have.

Ms Abubakar feels that thanks to the kindness of strangers, she can now look forward to the future.

She told the BBC that in order to sustain her family in the long-run, she wants to start a business with some of the food she has received.

The year the Australian Dream died

An aerial landscape view of Sydney
Image caption,The average price of a home in Sydney is over A$1m (£535,000, $678,000)

At the age of 31, Justin Dowswell never imagined he’d be living in a shared room in his childhood home.

He had a full-time, well-paying job in Sydney, and had rented for a decade before an unprecedented housing crisis forced him to upend his life and move back in with his parents, two hours away.

“It’s humbling,” he says. But the alternative was homelessness: “So I’m one of the lucky ones”.

It’s a far cry from the promise of the Great Australian Dream.

Where the American Dream is a more abstract belief that anyone can achieve success if they work hard enough, the Australian version is tangible.

For generations, owning a house on a modest block of land has been idealised as both the ultimate marker of success and a gateway to a better life.

It’s an aspiration that has wormed its way into the country’s identity, helping to shape modern Australia.

From the so-called “Ten Pound Poms” in the 1950s to the current boom in skilled workers moving from India, waves of migrants have arrived on Australia’s shores in search of its promise. And many found it.

But for current generations the dreams proffered to their parents and grandparents are out of reach.

After decades of government policies that treat housing as an investment not a right, many say they would be lucky to even find a stable, affordable place to rent.

“The Australian Dream… it’s a big lie,” Mr Dowswell says.

A perfect storm

Almost everything that could go wrong with housing in Australia has gone wrong, says Michael Fotheringham.

“The only thing that could make it worse is if banks started collapsing,” the head of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute tells the BBC.

Underpinning it all is that buying a house is astronomically expensive – the average property now costs about nine times an ordinary household’s income, triple what it was 25 years ago.

It’s particularly dire for the three quarters of Australians who live in major cities. Sydney, for example, is the second least affordable city on Earth to buy a property, trailing only Hong Kong, according to the 2023 Demographia International Housing Affordability survey.

Australia has made home ownership virtually unattainable for almost anyone without family wealth. Last month the boss of a major bank, ANZ, said home loans had become “the preserve of the rich”.

Chelsea Hickman and Justin Dowswell
Image caption,Chelsea Hickman and Justin Dowswell feel let down

That’s left people like Chelsea Hickman questioning their future. The 28-year-old fashion designer always imagined she’d become both a homeowner and a mother, but now worries that may be impossible.

“Financially, how could I ever afford both? The numbers just do not add up,” she says.

She tells the BBC from her Melbourne shared house that despite working full-time for almost a decade, she can’t even afford to rent an apartment by herself. Her friends are in a similar boat.

“Where did it go wrong?” she says.

“We did everything that everyone said we should do, and we’re still not reaching this point where we’re going to have financial independence and housing security.”

Tarek Bieganski, a 26-year-old IT manager, laughs when asked if he thinks he’ll ever own property.

“It’s just so obviously out of reach that it’s not really even a thought anymore,” he says. “And this is coming from someone that, really, has got it pretty good.”

But with interest rates rising faster than at any time in Australia’s history, even many of those who have scraped their way on to the property ladder now live in fear of falling off it.

Foodbanks are being overwhelmed by mortgage holders struggling to keep their heads above water. Hordes of people are picking up extra jobs. Many pensioners have been forced back into work.

It’s not doom and gloom for everyone though.

A woman runs past an auction sign in Sydney
Image caption,Many existing homeowners do not want to see house prices stabilise

The level of home ownership across the nation – while significantly dropping for young people – has overall stayed around two-thirds.

And those Australians are quite content to see house prices climb and their wealth grow.

That’s difficult to stomach, Ms Hickman says, especially given how many homeowners – one in three – now own a property other than the one they live in.

“I understand that people are like ‘Well, I worked hard to get these millions of houses’ and blah, blah, blah, and I’m like, ‘Okay, well, good for you. I work hard too and I just want one house’.”

‘Grapes of Wrath stuff’

As a result, millions of people are trapped in the rental market, seeking to create a watered-down version of the Australian Dream as tenants.

But that’s no paradise either.

Vacancies are at unprecedented, prolonged lows – to the point that councils across the country are begging people with empty holiday homes and short-term rentals to move them on to the long-term market.

And, with the greater demand, rents are skyrocketing.

Australian news has been awash with stories of massive rent increases and images of desperate people queuing to inspect properties riddled with defects and – in some cases – obviously covered in mould.

“It’s Grapes of Wrath stuff,” Dr Fotheringham says, referring to the famous Great Depression-era novel about a family struggling to build a life.

A line of people waiting to inspect a house
Image caption,A line of people waiting to inspect a house in Adelaide

Social or subsidised housing – once a safety net for those on low or moderate incomes – is not an option for most Australians either. The number of homes available is less than half of what is needed to meet immediate demand and wait lists are years long.

And all of this is happening at a time when natural disasters and climate effects are wiping out swathes of housing stock, making even more parts of the vast Australian continent effectively unliveable.

The crisis is tipping people into homelessness or overcrowded living conditions. Demand for housing support is so high that some charities say they’ve been handing out tents.

One Tasmanian woman told the BBC she and her four kids spent over six months crammed into her mother’s spare room after the family was knocked back for more than 35 properties while languishing on the social housing wait list.

Melbourne woman Hayley Van Ree told us her rental prospects were so bleak that her mother raided her own retirement fund to buy an apartment and is now Ms Van Ree’s landlord – eliciting what she describes as a confusing mix of relief, embarrassment and guilt.

“Friends who have parents who are in property have this kind of morbid knowledge that when their parents die, they might be ok,” Ms Van Ree says. “I hate that it’s my reality.”

Hayley surrounded by boxes
Image caption,Ms Van Ree says she knows plenty of people with “just fine” jobs who can’t secure a home

Mr Dowswell is now back in Sydney, having finally secured an apartment after six months, but says the ordeal has been a massive tax on his finances and mental health.

“It was just demoralising… the more you think about it, the angrier you get,” he says.

Investment or right?

In 2023, the national conversation shifted from how expensive it is to buy a home, to how difficult it is to secure any kind of affordable home at all.

An end to pandemic-era rent and eviction freezes, record migration, rapidly escalating interest rates and construction delays conspired to leave housing in Australia in the worst state it has ever been, experts warn.

But the crisis is the result of “50 years of government policy failure, financialisation and greed”, wrote leading finance journalist Alan Kohler in a recent Quarterly Essay.

Particularly critical was what happened at the turn of the millennium, he argues. Until that point house prices in Australia had kept pace with income growth and the size of the economy – but this began to shift when the federal government introduced tax changes which incentivised the buying and selling of homes for profit.

Australian house prices increasingly dwarf disposable income. .  Indexed to 2015.

A sharp spike in immigration and government grants pushed up house prices in that era too, but Mr Kohler says it was these tax breaks that forever changed the way Australia thinks about housing.

“It will be impossible to return the price of housing to something less destructive… without purging the idea that housing is a means to create wealth as opposed to simply a place to live,” he wrote.

Doing so will upset a large class of voters, which will take courage and innovation from policymakers, he adds.

And that’s something critics say successive governments at federal, state and local levels have struggled to muster.

Some point to decades of neglect for social housing, or the persistence with grants for first homebuyers, which are popular but don’t work as they should and actually drive up prices further.

Others argue planning and heritage laws have been too easily abused to limit developments, often by existing residents reluctant to see changes to their suburbs and investments.

Then there’s the fear of overhauling those lucrative tax incentives for property investors – with the most recent promise of reform rejected at an election in 2019 and now abandoned.

“Housing needs to be seen as an essential service and right before an investment,” Mr Dowswell says. “There is definitely a moral imperative to act… [but] selfishness will get in the way.”

People march through Sydney in a housing rally
Image caption,People have rallied in cities across the country

National Housing Minister Julie Collins told the BBC there are “challenges” to tackle, but that her government – elected 18 months ago – is delivering “the most significant housing reforms in a generation”.

It has created or expanded schemes to help prospective buyers, though they have strict requirements and limited places. It has also promised to build thousands of new social and affordable houses – a small dent in the waiting list – and set up an investment fund to support future projects. Alongside state governments, it has pledged to create a National Housing and Homelessness Plan and beef up protections for renters.

The government is pulling other levers too: it announced earlier this month that it would halve Australia’s immigration intake and triple the fees for foreign homebuyers, both things they argue should help ease the strain.

Advocates support these changes but say they are just more tinkering around the edges of a system that needs heavy reform.

Those the BBC spoke to say that the Australian Dream has been demolished, eroding the foundations of the nation’s identity.

Australia has long thought itself the land of a fair go.

“[But] education and hard work are no longer the main determinants of how wealthy you are; now it comes down to where you live and what sort of house you inherit from your parents,” Mr Kohler says.

“It means Australia is less of an egalitarian meritocracy.”

Or as Ms Hickman sums it up: “It’s rigged.”

Taylor Swift: Inside a world-first ‘Swiftposium’ academic summit

A pair of glittery cowboy boots and Brittany Spanos
Image caption,Scores of sequinned scholars are exploring Taylor Swift’s impact at an academic conference

From the moment she slipped the Fearless record into her CD player as a 14-year-old, Georgia Carroll has been fascinated by Taylor Swift.

A decade and a half on, she’s now touted as the only person in the world with a PhD on the superstar.

Her assessment? “At the moment, it wouldn’t be going too far to say [Swift] is one of the most powerful people in the world.”

That’s why Dr Carroll is among scores of experts who have descended on Melbourne this week for an international academic symposium attempting to explain just how Swift has become so influential.

The event – the first of its kind – is a curtain raiser to the Eras Tour in Australia, and has attracted more than 400 submissions from dozens of study disciplines and academic institutions around the world – sparking a flurry of excitement and global headlines.

‘Started as a joke’

The idea for the ‘Swiftposium’ was born last July as a half-joking tweet with just a few dozen likes. But when organisers quietly announced the event months later it went internationally viral overnight.

Organisers woke up to coverage on the BBC, in Rolling Stone Magazine, CNN.

“I was like, I’ve got to email my boss,” Dr Eloise Faichney says with a grin. “Our little conference suddenly became this juggernaut.”

Fans were also desperate to take part, and on Sunday, hundreds of people – walking advertisements for rhinestones, cowboy boots and Swift’s signature red lip – flocked into Melbourne’s iconic Capitol Theatre just to hear lectures about the megastar.

At a sold-out friendship bracelet-making workshop beforehand, 19-year-old Soumil says the event – run by RMIT University – is helping heal the wounds left by the ticketing bloodbath of last year.

“It’s fun to still be part of it all,” he tells the BBC.

Fans pose with a cut out of Taylor Swift
Image caption,Tickets to fan events were snapped up at lightning speed

But the organisers are quick to clarify the conference – backed by seven universities across Australia and New Zealand – is not a fan convention.

“Although some of us are fans, it certainly – for us – is about trying to take somebody like her seriously in academia,” Dr Emma Whatman says.

“This is not an uncritical celebration.”

‘Godlike’ influence

There’s no denying ‘Taylor Mania’ has swept the world this past year – she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2023 – and it’s unclear when that might fade.

On Monday, the 34-year-old again dominated the headlines with pictures of her and footballer boyfriend Travis Kelce winning at the Super Bowl. Last week she cleaned up at the Grammys, taking home her fourth album of the year accolade.

Even her cats, her publicist and her childhood friends have name recognition and a loyal following.

“[Swift] has somehow become the most godlike superstar on the planet, bigger than I thought was even possible,” keynote speaker Brittany Spanos – a Rolling Stone reporter who in 2020 taught the first ever university course on the idol – told the conference.

But Swift has long found herself at the centre of huge cultural moments and debates, ever since shooting to stardom as a teenager.

Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift onstage at the 2009 VMAs
Image caption,Her infamous run in with Kanye West in 2009 was one of those moments

She has become one of the highest-earning and most-celebrated artists of all time – all while igniting conversations about everything from streaming royalties and music ownership to misogyny and cancel culture.

The summit obviously has a whole panel dedicated to “Swiftonomics” – a trend coined to explain her mammoth effect on economies, and one which has left world leaders begging her to tour their countries.

But there are also experts detailing how her bops are being used to train young people in CPR and excited discussion about the way her romance with Kelce is helping girls feel at home in traditionally male-dominated sports fandoms.

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce kiss after the Super Bowl
Image caption,Swift’s attention has resulted in a massive increase in NFL revenue too

There’s even a lyrical analysis of her attitudes towards public transport (ironically, as her real-life private jet use has increased, so have songs referencing trains and buses, Harrison Croft says).

And when the audience tired of listening to speeches, they were treated to a duet between a musician-turned-academic and an uncomfortably accurate AI clone of a younger Swift’s voice – to contrast how her sound has changed over the past 17 years.

For the literature fans, the conference had a mother-daughter duo read spoken-word poetry about the contempt society shows for the interests of young women – an item which drew an adoring reaction from the crowd. And for the politics nerds, an academic presenting on how Australian MPs use Swift to seem relatable.

Madeline Pentland, 27, found more than 30 speeches citing her most iconic lyrics – including a shameless performance by the treasurer of New South Wales, who racked up 20 references in a single speech.

Men were more likely to quote the singer, she discovered, but they tended to use the lyrics in political attack or mockery, whereas women were far more likely to use them to support topics of debate.

But Ms Pentland was most amused to find them wielded during one of Australian politics’ favourite past times – the disposing of leaders.

Madeline Pentland
Image caption,Swift’s popularity amongst politicians surprised historian Madeline Pentland

She laments, though, what she thinks are some missed opportunities: “I would have thought that there would be a bit of Bad Blood here and there, but I didn’t find any references!”

Another duo has explored how Swift has become such a magnet for conspiracy – from “delulu” fans reading into her strategic hints to right-wing characters reading into almost anything.

In the past few days alone, US President Joe Biden has joked off conjecture that Swift’s love life is part of a plot to rig the Super Bowl and help get him get re-elected, while her fans were convincing anyone with an internet connection that the re-record of the Reputation album was imminent.

Clare Southerton is interested in what all that can teach us about growing conspiracy communities.

“There’s a world of difference between being like, ‘Oh, look, the blue dress means 1989 is next’… and being a domestic terrorist, but it’s helpful for us to understand, why do people enjoy this?” the 35-year-old told the BBC.

There have also been uncomfortable debates about how terrifyingly unforgiving Swift’s fanbase can be, how her music reflects colonialism, and her controversial casting as a transport-emissions villain.

Singaporean academic Aimee-Sophia Lim – who studies how the artist is inspiring political activism in South East Asia – says she’s a huge fan, but she is often disappointed by Swift’s “US-centric, white brand of feminism”.

“Perhaps people of colour and those from the Global South should be the ones advocating for themselves and their communities… but Taylor’s outreach is undeniable,” the 23-year-old tells the BBC from Singapore.

“It would be great if she manages to expand her activism, so perhaps she could give a platform to other people who are able to speak on behalf of themselves.”

How did she become so powerful?

Not everyone is buying into the hype though.

Sabrina – who is literally fleeing the city the weekend the Eras Tour comes to town – says she can’t comprehend the insane levels of Swift’s appeal or influence.

“I don’t understand the whole fuss… like, I really don’t understand what’s happening here,” she tells the BBC.

But Dr Carroll says it comes down to the broadly relatable brand Swift has built, and the “intense connection” she’s managed to cultivate with her base – many of whom feel like they’ve grown up with her.

“Taylor has spent her whole career making her fans think they could be her friend,” she tells the BBC.

“And she’s done all of these things that make fans want to act in a way that makes her like them back,” adding that can at times lead to concerning behaviour – like mobbing her friend’s wedding, spending tens of thousands on merch and tickets, and obsessing over her every move.

Dr Georgia Carroll
Image caption,Dr Carroll knows Swift’s power first hand

All throughout the symposium – hosted by the University of Melbourne – people have been likening Swift to Elvis, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Beyoncé.

It’s hard to compare her to those artists of a different era, keynote speaker Ms Spanos tells the BBC, but she’s certainly the hottest thing on the planet right now.

“She’ll be considered the greatest songwriter of her generation… and also one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”

Dr Carroll argues Swift has indeed been able to take her fame to another level though – thanks to that broad, incredibly motivated fanbase.

“[For other artists], their sphere of influence doesn’t extend too far out of their fan base. But that’s no longer true of Taylor.”

And it’s nice – and long overdue – that people are taking an interest in that, she says.

A year ago, when receiving her doctorate people laughed at the topic of her studies. Now she’s giving a keynote speech at one of the most publicised academic conferences in the world.

“It’s kind of like, oh my God, everybody gets it!” she says. “It’s that feeling of being seen, and recognition that my research does have a value.

“We are not just gonna be sitting around at this conference fangirling – that will occur – but there’s so much that studying her can tell us about the world.”

Government finances show big surplus in January

People in the street

The government finances showed a large surplus last month, more than double the surplus last January.

The surplus – the difference between spending and tax income – rose to £16.7bn in January, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

These are the last set of public finance figures to be released before the Chancellor’s Budget in March.

Jeremy Hunt has hinted he wants to cut taxes, but analysts said the surplus is unlikely to lead to big changes.

Despite being the highest surplus in nominal terms since monthly records began in 1993, it was lower than most economists had predicted.

But it is still likely to fuel calls for tax cuts in the forthcoming Budget, which many see as the government’s last chance to win round voters before a general election later this year.

The ONS said the surplus was the result of higher tax receipts and lower spending, with the government no longer subsiding household energy bills for example.

Every January, the government tends to take more in tax than it spends in other months due to the amount it receives in self-assessed taxes, according to the ONS.

In addition, the cost of financing the UK’s debt has gone down as inflation has fallen.

“Overall expenditure was down on this time last year, despite increased spending on public services and benefits,” said Jessica Barnaby, deputy director for public sector at the ONS.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott said: “While we will not speculate over whether further reductions in tax will be affordable in the Budget, the economy is beginning to turn a corner, with inflation down from over 11% to 4%.”

For the year as a whole, to April, the government is only on track to undershoot its forecast by between £10bn to £20bn. Chancellors usually allow some headroom in the finances, to allow for unforeseen changes in economic fortunes.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown said the figures represented a boost to the chancellor’s coffers, but were not big enough for a “Budget bonanza”.

“It offers a few inches of headroom for Hunt, but not enough for a Budget of dramatic tax cuts,” she said.

Capital Economics, an economics think tank, suggested using the added room for manoeuvre that the chancellor will have as a result of the surplus amounted to “putting the election before prudence”.

In the year from April 2023 public borrowing has totalled £96.6bn.

Overall the UK’s debt has risen compared to a year ago and remains at levels last seen in the early 1960s, the ONS said, at around 96.5% of the size of the economy, measured by GDP.

One of the government’s key pledges is that debt should be falling as a percentage of GDP in five years’ time.

Chart showing public sector net borrowing on monthly basis

The debate over whether January’s surplus in the government’s finances leaves room for tax cuts comes against a mixed economic backdrop.

The latest growth figures show that the UK went into a shallow recession in the second half of last year, although the governor of the Bank of England suggested this week that there were already “distinct signs of an upturn”.

The Resolution Foundation has warned that if the chancellor does cut tax in the forthcoming Budget, it would amount to a “tax sandwich” with any tax cut sitting between substantial tax rises in the years before and after it.

“Juicy tax cuts in this election year are sandwiched between far bigger tax rises already introduced last year. And highly unusually the government has already announced plans for a chunky package of tax rises that will come into effect after polling day,” said James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation.

Mengapa Prabowo-Gibran ‘menang‘ di tengah banyaknya tuduhan isu antidemokrasi?

pemilu, prabowo subianto, gibran
Keterangan gambar,Pendukung Prabowo Subianto di Jakarta, pada 10 Februari lalu, mengusung poster yang membalas sejumlah tudingan negatif kepada mantan Danjen Kopassus itu

Isu dugaan pelanggaran HAM dan dinasti politik yang dilekatkan kepada pasangan Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming tidak mempengaruhi elektabilitas keduanya. Berdasarkan hasil hitung cepat berbagai lembaga survei, mereka meraih lebih dari 50% suara.

Lantas mengapa Prabowo-Gibran bisa meraup suara begitu besar di tengah terpaan sejumlah isu yang disebut “antidemokrasi”—yang telah mereka bantah dalam berbagai kesempatan dalam Pilpres kali ini?

BBC News Indonesia berbicara dengan pakar sosiologi-politik dan aktivis lembaga swadaya masyarakat untuk menjawab pertanyaan tersebut.

‘Demokrasi bukan isu penting bagi banyak orang’

Sejumlah persoalan dalam rekam jejak Prabowo-Gibran hanya dibicarakan dan menjadi kegelisahan kelompok kelas menengah berpendidikan yang kritis, kata Mada Sukmajati, dosen Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Politik (Fisipol) di Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Mada berkata, isu demokrasi seperti hak asasi manusia, konflik kepentingan dan moralitas pejabat negara tidak dibicarakan oleh sebagian besar masyarakat ekonomi bawah dan kelompok berpendidikan rendah.

Menurutnya, itulah alasan mengapa film dokumenter Dirty Vote yang berkisah tentang dugaan kecurangan pemilu dan pernyataan sikap para guru besar yang mencemaskan situasi demokrasi di Indonesia tidak mampu menjegal perolehan suara Prabowo-Gibran.

“Kegelisahan bahwa demokrasi sedang mundur itu narasi-narasi dari kelompok menengah kritis dan masyarakat elit,” ujar Mada.

Indonesia, orde baru
Keterangan gambar,Potret unjuk rasa kelompok mahasiswa di Jakarta pada tahun1998 yang menuntut kejatuhan rezim Orde Baru pimpinan Soeharto.

Setidaknya tujuh dari setiap 10 orang penduduk Indonesia adalah orang dengan pendapatan menengah ke bawah, menurut Survei Ekonomi Nasional Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) tahun 2021.

BPS mencatat, jumlah penduduk miskin Indonesia mencapai 26 juta orang pada September 2022. Angka itu tidak termasuk orang-orang yang rentan miskin karena berada di sekitar garis kemiskinan.

Sementara itu, jumlah penduduk Indonesia yang mencapai jenjang sarjana hanya 6,4% pada Juni 2022, menurut data Direktorat Jenderal Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil. Persentase itu setara 61 ribu orang.

Penduduk yang menyelesaikan sekolah sampai tingkat SMA hanya 20,8% atau sekitar 57 juta orang.

Menurut Mada, transisi menuju demokrasi yang didambakan Indonesia pasca keruntuhan Orde Baru tidak dibarengi kesejahteraan. Data-data yang merujuk tingkat kesejahteraan masyarakat Indonesia itu, kata Mada, berkaitan erat dengan proses elektoral.

Mada berkata, bagi pemilih dari kelompok ekonomi menengah-bawah, “bisa makan dan punya tempat tinggal layak” adalah persoalan nyata yang mereka hadapi setiap hari. Isu kesejahteraan merupakan basis bagi kelompok warga saat memberikan pilihan politik.

Konsekuensi dari keterkaitan ini, menurut Mada, adalah munculnya calon-calon pemimpin yang menawarkan program populis. Warga dari kelas ekonomi bawah cenderung menyukai kontestan pemilu seperti ini—yang mereka anggap bisa segera menawarkan solusi atas persoalan ekonomi sehari-hari mereka.

“Program makan siang dan susu gratis Prabowo-Gibran itu memang jauh lebih mengena untuk kelompok masyarakat ini, dibandingkan, misalnya program internet gratisnya Ganjar atau bahkan isu keadilan yang lebih abstrak bagi mereka,” kata Mada.

Keterangan gambar,Foto unjuk rasa di Jakarta pada Februari 1998. Menurut Mada Sukmajati, sebagian besar masyarakat lebih mengutamakan isu kesejahteraan yang faktual bagi keseharian mereka, ketimbang persoalan HAM.

Bantuan berbentuk uang sebesar Rp600 ribu yang dibagikan Presiden Joko Widodo melalui bansos mitigasi risiko pangan jelang pencoblosan memperkuat posisi Prabowo-Gibran sebagai calon pemimpin yang populis.

Mada menilai, bansos inilah yang kemungkinan besar membuat suara Prabowo-Gibran lebih tinggi dari sejumlah survei sebelum hari pencoblosan.

“Dengan kondisi seperti itu, di saat-saat terakhir jelang pencoblosan, kelompok menengah ke bawah yang belum menentukan pilihan pada akhirnya memilih Prabowo-Gibran,” tutur Mada.

Nining, warga DKI Jakarta, memilih Prabowo yang menurutnya ”peduli kepada masyarakat”. Janji Prabowo memberikan makan siang gratis memikat Nining yang tergolong pemilih dari kelompok ekonomi menengah ke bawah ini.

“Hidup sehat, berkecukupan, tidak berkekurangan,” ujar Nining merujuk janji kampanye Prabowo yang menarik perhatiannya.

“Prabowo bisa menyejahterakan masyarakat sehingga tidak ada yang miskin dan menderita lagi,” kata Nining tentang bagaimana dia mempercayai retorika kampanye Prabowo.

indonesia, perempuan, ham
Keterangan gambar,Sumarsih, penggerak aksi Kamisan yang menuntut keadilan atas sejumlah korban hilang dan tewas pada Tragedi 1998, telah berunjuk rasa di depan Istana Negara, Jakarta, sejak 2007. Pada Pilpres kali ini, dia dituduh melancarkan propaganda negatif terhadap Prabowo Subianto.

Program makan siang gratis juga menjadi alasan dua warga Pamekasan, Madura, Jawa Timur, yang BBC News Indonesia temui, tentang mengapa mereka memilih Prabowo.

“Daripada dikasih internet gratis, lebih baik dikasih makan siang gratis,“ kata Hendri, warga Desa Bulangan Timur Pegantenan.

Hendri berkata, dia tidak terlalu tertarik dengan strategi kampanye Prabowo di media sosial—yang memakai lagu dan goyang disko. Dia juga tidak menonton film Dirty Vote yang bertutur tentang tuduhan kecurangan di balik kontestasi Prabowo-Gibran.

“Saya tidak mempertimbangkan masalah HAM. Masalahnya saya enggak tahu soal itu,” tuturnya.

Dedi Pramana, warga Kecamatan Palengaan, Pamekasan, memilih Prabowo sejak Pilpres 2014. Program makan siang dan susu gratis semakin memantapkan pilihannya.

“Saya pernah baca berita tentang rekam jejak Prabowo, cuma enggak saya tangggapi, enggak ada urusannya,” ujar Dedi.

“Isu-isu itu tidak penting bagi saya karena kadang orang itu mau fitnah, mau apa gitu,” tuturnya.

pemilu, prabowo subianto, gibran
Keterangan gambar,Pendukung Prabowo-Gibran membagikan telur gratis pada ajang kampanye di Jakarta, 10 Februari lalu.

‘Mayoritas orang kaya dan berpendidikan juga pilih Prabowo’

Namun kelompok menengah ke bawah bukanlah satu-satunya kantong suara terbesar Prabowo. Dia memenangkan suara di hampir di seluruh kategori masyarakat.

Mayoritas orang berpendidikan tinggi (41,7%) dan mayoritas orang dari kelompok sosial ekonomi atas (45,6%) memberikan suara mereka untuk Prabowo.

Ini adalah data Litbang Kompas dengan rentang kesalahan 1,1%, berbasis wawancara kepada 7.863 pemilik suara di semua provinsi pada 14 Februari lalu.

Firman Noor, profesor ilmu politik dari Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional, menyebut publik semestinya tidak perlu heran dengan temuan Litbang Kompas.

“Pendukung Hilter dan rezim otoritarian Soeharto pun banyak yang berasal dari kalangan terdidik,” kata Firman.

Menurut Firman, transisi yang dijalani Indonesia usai kejatuhan rezim otoritarian Orde Baru pada tahun 1998 tidak serta merta melahirkan masyarakat yang memahami dan menganggap penting makna demokrasi.

Transisi demokrasi pada era Reformasi, kata Firman, diselewengkan pimpinan negara yang berkolaborasi dengan elite pengusaha. Konsekuensinya, menurut Firman, Indonesia tidak pernah benar-benar mencapai titik demokrasi yang ideal. Masyarakat Indonesia pun lantas memiliki jarak yang besar dengan nilai-nilai demokrasi.

“Jangan bayangkan transisi demokrasi akan selalu berjalan sukses. Ada peran besar dari pimpinan nasional apakah mereka ingin memelihara proses demokratisasi atau tidak,” kata Firman.

“Harus diingat, ada banyak kelompok yang tidak nyaman dengan demokrasi,“ ujarnya.

pemilu, prabowo subianto, gibran
Keterangan gambar,Prabowo Subianto dan Gibran Rakabuming merayakan hasil hitung cepat Pilpres yang menunjukkan kemenangan mereka.

Taufik Hidayat, warga Kecamatan Tanara, Kabupaten Serang, memilih Prabowo meski mengetahui isu HAM yang selama ini dituduhkan kepada mantan Danjen Kopassus itu. Namun laki-laki berusia 28 tahun itu menilai, “yang terjadi pada masa lalu biarlah menjadi bagian dari masa lalu“.

“Selama pelanggaran itu tidak ada buktinya, kenapa harus dipersoalkan? Toh itu urusan masa lalu dan saya melihatnya ke depan,“ kata Taufik.

Prabowo tidak pernah diadili di Pengadilan HAM soal tuduhan penculikan aktivis tahun 1997-1998 yang diarahkan kepadanya. Namun putusan Dewan Kehormatan Perwira yang dibentuk Panglima ABRI pada 1998 membuat kesimpulan bahwa Prabowo terlibat dalam penculikan tersebut.

“Saya melihat sosok Prabowo itu gagah sehingga Indonesia nanti bisa disegani oleh negara-negara lain. Itu saja. Lebih keren,“ kata Taufik tentang mengapa dia memilih Prabowo.

Pilpres 2024
Keterangan gambar,Jafar Sodiq, warga kota Serang, memilih Prabowo meski telah menonton film Dirty Vote dan membaca pemberitaan tentang rekam jejak Ketua Umum Partai Gerindra itu.

Jafar Sodiq, warga Kota Serang, memilih Prabowo meski dia telah menonton film Dirty Vote. Dia juga mengikuti pemberitaan yang membahas dugaan politik kepentingan di balik perubahan syarat calon wakil presiden.

Walau begitu, Jafar tetap menjatuhkan pilihan kepada Prabowo. Dia merasa film Dirty Vote berupaya menggiring opini publik untuk mendiskreditkan Prabowo.

“Film itu kan dibuat oleh beberapa pakar, tapi seperti menghakimi,“ kata Jafar.

Jafar berkata, dia memilih Prabowo karena janji kampanye yang menurutnya realistis: makan siang dan susu gratis. “Yang saya anggap penting programnya. Kalau itu bisa berjalan, Indonesia bisa maju,” ujarnya.

Kritik untuk akademisi dan aktivis demokrasi

Mada Sukmajati, pakar sosiologi politik, menyebut isu demokrasi “masih sangat abstrak“ bagi sebagian besar masyarakat Indonesia. Beragam nilai demokrasi yang diperjuangkan sebelum era Reformasi, kata dia, telah direduksi oleh kelompok elite politik dan menengah atas menjadi sekedar proses memberikan hak pilih saat pemilu.

“Demokrasi tidak dipahami warga sampai pada hal-hal yang lebih substantif, misalnya apakah pemilu berlangsung tanpa politik uang, tidak dengan iming-iming bansos,“ kata Mada.

“Ini menandakan ketidakmampuan aktor-aktor yang dulu mendorong demokrasi, misalnya gerakan masyarakat sipil dan akademisi, untuk membumikan isu demokrasi ini sampai ke tingkat bawah.

“Dan memang negara sendiri juga memang menciptakan situasi yang akhirnya membentuk pemilih-pemilih yang paternalistik,“ ujar Mada.

pemilu, prabowo subianto, gibran
Keterangan gambar,Kemenangan Prabowo Subianto dalam Pilpres 2024 dianggap momen krusial bagi gerakan masyarakat sipil untuk membumikan isu demokrasi.

Kemenangan Prabowo-Gibran dipicu banyak faktor, menurut Egi Primayogha, Koordinator Divisi Korupsi Politik di Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW).

Selain dugaan kecurangan pemilu dan keberhasilan strategi mendulang suara, Egi menilai Prabowo-Gibran bisa meraih suara terbanyak juga karena isu demokrasi yang elitis.

Egi berkata, kemenangan Prabowo-Gibran menunjukkan persoalan besar dalam demokrasi Indonesia yang belum kunjung tuntas: gerakan masyarakat sipil hanya menyirkulasikan permasalahan demokrasi di kalangan mereka sendiri.

“Isu seperti politik dinasti, korupsi dan sebagainya tak tersampaikan secara meluas, terutama kepada akar rumput sehingga sulit untuk mendorong mereka untuk bersikap berdasarkan isu-isu tersebut,“ kata Egi.

Kemenangan Prabowo-Gibran yang punya catatan buruk mengenai demokrasi menjadi buah dari tidak terselesaikannya permasalahan tersebut, tambah Egi.

“Ini adalah kekalahan telak bagi gerakan sipil yang kesekian kalinya. Lolosnya undang-undang bermasalah seperti revisi UU KPK, UU Cipta Kerja, dan sebagainya berkali-kali terjadi selama beberapa tahun terakhir. Gerakan sipil gagal membendungnya.”

“Situasi hari ini idealnya mendorong masyarakat sipil untuk segera melakukan autokritik dan mengevaluasi gerakannya,“ lanjut Egi.

PPK di Kota Makassar mulai rekapitulasi surat suara pemilu

PPK di Kota Makassar mulai rekapitulasi surat suara pemilu
Suasana persiapan proses rekapitulasi hasil penghitungan perolehan suara Pemilu 2024 oleh PPK Kecamatan Manggala dihadiri saksi di ruangan media center Aula Kantor KPU Kota Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan, Ahad (18/2/2024). ANTARA/Darwin Fatir.

Makassar (ANTARA) – Sejumlah panitia pemilihan kecamatan (PPK) di Kota Makassar Provinsi Sulawesi Selatan mulai melaksanakan rekapitulasi hasil penghitungan perolehan suara Pemilu 2024, meskipun beredar kabar KPU RI akan menunda sementara rekapitulasi dan dilakukan serentak pada 20 Februari 2024.

“Untuk Kota Makassar sudah ada 12 PPK kecamatan yang mulai melaksanakan proses rekapitulasi, kecuali tiga kecamatan yakni Mariso, Mamajang dan Makassar ditunda dengan alasan teknis,” kata anggota KPU Makassar Abdi Goncing kepada wartawan di kantornya, Jalan Perumnas Antang Raya Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan, Ahad.

Penundaan rekapitulasi tersebut, kata dia, tentu dibutuhkan persiapan-persiapan karena ada beberapa hal yang perlu di komunikasikan dengan beberapa pihak terkait yang menjadi bagian dari pelaksana beserta perangkat peserta pemilu.

Menurut dia, berdasarkan aturan Peraturan KPU nomor 5 tahun 2024 tentang Rekapitulasi Hasil Penghitungan Perolehan Suara dan Penetapan Hasil Pemilihan Umum untuk rekapitulasi di tingkat PPK dimulai 15 Februari-2 Maret 2024.

“Untuk di tingkat kecamatan batasnya sampai 2 Maret dan, untuk kita di tingkat kota sampai 6 Maret. Jadi, selama ada yang sudah selesai kita akan mulai (rekapitulasi), makanya kita tetap melakukan monitoring hari ini untuk melihat bagaimana proses rekapitulasi di tingkat kecamatan,” kata dia membidangi Humas KPU Makassar ini.

Pihaknya menargetkan estimasi rekapitulasi di 15 kecamatan tersebar di Kota Makassar diperkirakan selesai tiga sampai empat hari per kecamatan. Pihaknya berharap, semoga rekapitulasi tersebut berjalan lancar sesuai aturan.

Saat ditanyakan potensi Pemungutan Suara Ulang (PSU) di dua kelurahan yakni Kelurahan Baru dan Bulogading, Kecamatan Ujung Pandang diduga terjadi pelanggaran pemilu pemilih tidak terdaftar lalu memilih di TPS setempat, kata dia, masih menunggu rekomendasi Bawaslu, dan tidak mengganggu proses rekap di kecamatan.

“Itu sudah disampaikan ke kami, dua TPS. Kemarin, kita sudah persiapkan segala sesuatunya jika sudah keluar rekomendasi dari Bawaslu. Jadi, kami tunggu surat resmi dari Bawaslu agar logistik tidak seperti kemarin yang tidak tercover. Kami akan lebih awal persiapan agar tidak seperti kemarin (bermasalah), katanya.

Mengenai dengan pelaksanaan PSU karena terjadi dugaan pelanggaran, kata dia berdalih, untuk memastikan bahwa Pemilu ini sesuai ini prosedur nya. Jadi, PSU bukan soal bagus atau tidak, tetapi untuk memastikan hasil yang tidak sesuai.

Seorang saksi menulis saat menghadiri proses rekapitulasi hasil penghitungan perolehan suara Pemilu 2024 oleh PPK Kecamatan Manggala di ruangan media center, Aula Kantor KPU Kota Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan, Ahad (18/2/2024). ANTARA/Darwin Fatir.

Pihaknya pun mengakui keterlambatan rekapitulasi surat suara pada hari H pemungutan suara Rabu, 14 Februari 2024, karena adanya kelalaian dan abai terhadap penyaluran logistik terutama formulir C1 Plano atau formulir hasil yang terlambat tiba di sejumlah TPS saat proses penghitungan.

Mengenai dengan soal dugaan kesalahan input data termasuk suara Calon Legislatif (Caleg) bahkan ada tertukar, kata Abdi, belum bisa berkomentar ada salah input data, karena per hari ini baru mulai perekapan di tingkat kecamatan. Sedangkan di Kota Makassar, ia belum menerima adanya kekurangan suara caleg.

Secara terpisah, Anggota Bawaslu Sulsel Saiful Jihad membenarkan untuk Kota Makassar data sementara ada dua TPS direkomendasikan PSU dari jumlah total se Sulsel sebanyak 54 TPS yang akan melaksanakan PSU.

“Kami tentu mengawal proses Pemilu, mudah-mudahan hasilnya nanti sesuai harapan masyarakat dan ikut mengawal prosesnya. Kalau ada catatan, tidak sesuai prosedur dan mekanismenya serta dianggap melanggar, Bawaslu harus hadir. Sejauh ini, penghitungan suara di PPK sudah berlangsung,” katanya kepada wartawan.

Data rekapitulasi surat suara yang dikutip pada situs resmi KPU, per 18 Februari 2024 pukul 19.00 Wita, dari 4.004 TPS se-Kota Makassar data yang masuk telah mencapai 42,93 persen atau sebanyak 1.719 TPS.

Data KPU Makassar, jumlah TPS yang tersebar di 15 kecamatan dengan 153 kelurahan sebanyak 4.004 unit TPS. Sedangkan jumlah Daftar Pemilih Tetap (DPT) Pemilu 2024 sebanyak 1.036.965 juta pemilih dengan rincian laki-laki 501.371 ribu pemilih dan perempuan 535.594 ribu pemilih.

Eks Ketua KPK pimpin sementara perolehan suara DPD wilayah Jatim

Eks Ketua KPK pimpin sementara perolehan suara DPD wilayah Jatim
Seseorang sedang mengamati hasil hitung suara DPD RI 2024 wilayah Jawa Timur melalui laman resmi KPU,, per Kamis (15/2/2024), pukul 17.01 WIB. ANTARA/Fiqih Arfani

Surabaya (ANTARA) – Mantan Ketua Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) RI, Agus Rahardjo, memimpin sementara perolehan suara pemilihan Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD) RI 2024 di wilayah Jawa Timur dengan raihan 11,88 persen berdasarkan penghitungan sementara KPU atau real count per Kamis, pukul 17.01 WIB.

Sebagaimana tercantum di laman “”, seperti dipantau dari Surabaya, data tersebut merupakan hasil penghitungan suara di 36,88 persen tempat pemungutan suara (TPS) atau 44.504 dari total 120.666 TPS di 38 kabupaten/kota.

Posisi kedua ditempati Ketua DPD RI saat ini, LaNyalla Mahmud Mattalitti yang meraih 11,72 persen suara. Menempel ketat di posisi ketiga adalah aktivis perempuan yang juga keponakan mantan Gubernur Jatim Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Lia Istifhama dengan raihan 11,12 persen.

Di posisi empat, atau batas terakhir perebutan kursi untuk DPD RI daerah pemilihan Jawa Timur diisi seorang perempuan yang viral di sosial media karena disebut warganet berparas cantik, yaitu Kondang Kusumaning Ayu. Perolehan suaranya mencapai 10,76 persen.

Sementara itu, dua petahana anggota DPD RI yang memutuskan maju kembali pada Pemilu 2024, masing-masing Ahmad Nawardi (8,44 persen suara) serta Adilla Aziz berada (8,4 persen) di posisi lima dan enam.

Calon senator lainnya berturut-turut di posisi 7 hingga 13 , yaitu Ayub Khan (7,45 persen), Abdul Qodir Amir Hartono (6,56 persen), Mohammad Trijanto (6,48 persen), Catur Rudi Utanto (5,53 persen), Bambang Harianto (4,63 persen), Kunjung Wahyudi (3,79 persen), dan Doddy Dwi Nugroho (3,23 persen).

Hasil yang ditampilkan KPU itu bukan hasil akhir Pemilu 2024. KPU menyatakan publikasi Form Model C/D Hasil adalah hasil penghitungan suara di TPS untuk memudahkan akses informasi publik.

KPU juga menyatakan penghitungan suara yang dilakukan oleh kelompok penyelenggara pemungutan suara (KPPS) di TPS, rekapitulasi hasil penghitungan suara, dan penetapan hasil pemilu dilakukan secara berjenjang dalam rapat pleno terbuka oleh PPK, KPU kabupaten dan kota, KPU provinsi, serta KPU RI berdasarkan ketentuan peraturan perundang-undangan.

Sesuai Peraturan KPU Nomor 3 Tahun 2022, rekapitulasi suara nasional Pemilu 2024 dijadwalkan berlangsung mulai 15 Februari 2024 sampai dengan 20 Maret 2024.

Ukraine Russia war: US warns Avdiivka could fall

The US has warned that Russia could seize Ukraine’s key eastern town of Avdiivka – the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months.

“Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, citing Ukraine’s ammunition shortages.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to do everything to “save as many Ukrainian lives as possible”.

Russian troops have made gains in Avdiivka, threatening to encircle it.

The town – which has been almost completely destroyed – is seen as a gateway to nearby Donetsk, the regional Ukrainian capital seized by Russian-backed fighters in 2014 and later illegitimately annexed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

At Thursday’s briefing in Washington, Mr Kirby said Avdiivka could fall largely “because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition”.

“Russia is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions,” he said.

“And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults.

“Russian forces are now reaching Ukrainian trenches in Avdiivka, and they’re beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defences.”

Earlier this week, the US Senate approved a $95bn (£75bn) foreign aid package – including $60bn for Ukraine – after months of political wrangling, but it faces an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.

Ukraine is critically dependent on weapons supplies from the US and other Western allies to be able to continue fighting Russia – a much bigger military force with an abundance of artillery ammunition.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Thursday that the US failure to approve continued military assistance to Ukraine was already having an impact on the battlefield.

Smoke rises near the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the town of Avdiivka in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, as seen from Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 15, 2024
Image caption,Smoke rises over an industrial site in Avdiivka on Thursday

In his video address late on Thursday, President Zelensky said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our warriors have enough managerial and technological capabilities to save as many Ukrainian lives as possible.”

On Friday, Mr Zelensky is visiting Berlin and Paris where he is expected to sign security pacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

A similar agreement on security co-operation was signed between Ukraine and the UK in January.

Late on Thursday, Ukrainian General Oleksandr Tarnavsky admitted that “fierce battles” were taking place “within” Avdiivka.

“We value every piece of Ukrainian land, but the highest value and priority for us is the preservation of the life of a Ukrainian soldier,” he said.

Ukraine’s military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy acknowledged that Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka were being forced to “sometimes move to more advantageous positions… in some places leaving positions”.

In its update on Friday, the military general staff said “the planned strengthening of units” was being carried out, as well as “a troop manoeuvre in directions that are under threat”.

Some Ukrainian soldiers have privately admitted the town could fall at any moment.

“We’re upset,” Ukrainian officer Oleksii, from Ukraine’s 110th Mechanised Brigade in the Avdiivka area, told the BBC earlier this week, standing beside a huge mobile artillery piece as Russian guns boomed in the distance.

“Currently we have two shells, but we have no [explosive] charges for them… so we can’t fire them. As of now, we have run out of shells,” said Oleksii. He suggested that the shortages were widespread and having a dramatic impact on the fighting in Avdiivka.

“We feel a very strong responsibility for our guys fighting right now in the town, armed only with assault rifles.”

Ukraine’s newly appointed commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited the frontline in the Avdiivka area this week, acknowledging that the situation there was “difficult”.

He said the Russian military did not “count losses”, using its troops as cannon fodder.

Kyiv says an elite Ukrainian brigade has now been sent to Avdiivka and reserve artillery has been deployed.

In unverified reports, Russian military bloggers said on Thursday that a key Ukrainian defence position in southern Avdiivka – known as Zenit – was now under Moscow’s control.

ISW map of Avdiivka

Tucker Carlson interview: Fact-checking Putin’s ‘nonsense’ history

Image caption,Mr Putin began the interview by claiming that 862 was the year of the “establishment of the Russian state”

US talk show host Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin began with a rambling half-hour lecture on the history of Russia and Ukraine.

Mr Carlson, frequently appearing bemused, listened as Mr Putin expounded at length about the origins of Russian statehood in the ninth century, Ukraine as an artificial state and Polish collaboration with Hitler.

It is familiar ground for Mr Putin, who infamously penned a 5,000-word essay entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” in 2021, which foreshadowed the intellectual justification the Kremlin offered for its invasion of Ukraine less than a year later.

Historians say the litany of claims made by Mr Putin are nonsense – representing nothing more than a selective abuse of history to justify the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Regardless of the historical realities, none of Putin’s assertions would form a legal justification for his invasion.

A state-centred narrative

Mr Putin began the interview by claiming that 862 was the year of the “establishment of the Russian state”. This was the year that Rurik, a Scandinavian prince, was invited to rule over the city of Novgorod, the capital of the Rus – the people who would eventually develop into today’s Russians.

Mr Putin contrasts what he claims is the unbroken tradition of Russian statehood dating back to the 9th Century with the modern “invention” of Ukraine – a country he insists was “created” as late as the 20th Century.

An engraving of Prince Rurik in 862
Image caption,An engraving showing Prince Rurik in 862

But Sergey Radchenko, a historian at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says the president’s claim is “a complete falsehood”.

“Vladimir Putin is trying to construct a narrative backwards, saying Russia as a state began its development in the 9th Century. You could equally say that Ukraine as a state began its development in the 9th Century, exactly with the same kind of evidence and documents.

“He’s trying to use certain historical facts to construct a state-centred narrative that would favour Russia as opposed to any alternative agglomerations.”

Ronald Suny, a professor at the University of Michigan, says the Rus was made up of “a bunch of bandits, who burned their own capital repeatedly”.

He adds that Mr Putin is repeating an “established mythology made up at certain points in the past by Muscovite tsars who trace their lineage back to Rurik.”

“This mythology was crystallised in Moscow to justify their imperial hold over Ukraine.”

A ‘special ethnic group’

Mr Putin told Tucker Carlson that by the 17th Century, when Poland came to rule over parts of present-day Ukraine, they introduced the idea that the population of those areas “was not exactly Russians. Because they lived on the fringe, they were Ukrainians.”

“Originally the word Ukrainian meant that the person was living on the outskirts of the state, along the fringes.”

But Anita Prazmowska, a professor emerita at the LSE, says that although a national consciousness emerged later among Ukrainians than other central European nations, there were Ukrainians during that period.

“[Vladimir Putin] is using a 20th Century concept of the state based on the protection of a defined nation, as something that goes back. It doesn’t.”

Mr Suny says that while it may be true that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians “came from the same stock … through time, they developed into different peoples.”

‘New Russia’

Mr Putin claims that areas in the south and east of Ukraine “had no historical connection with Ukraine whatsoever”. Conquered from the Ottoman Empire by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great in the 17th Century, the Russian president says that means these lands are in fact rightfully Russian. Mr Putin later refers to them using the 18th Century term “Novorossiya” – New Russia.

Mr Suny points out that the inhabitants of these lands when they were conquered by Russia were neither Russian nor Ukrainian, but Ottoman, Tatar or Cossacks – Slavic peasants who had fled to the frontiers.

Statue of Catherine the Great
Image caption,Catherine the Great conquered parts of present-day Ukraine

But claiming that these territories are in reality rightfully Russian serves Mr Putin’s interests, as they are precisely the areas that Russia is attempting to conquer from Ukraine during the now decade-long conflict with its neighbour.

So-called Novorossiya includes Crimea – illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014. New Russia also covers areas around Kherson, Mariupol and Bakhmut, which Mr Putin declared part of Russia in 2022.

An ‘artificial state’

Mr Putin went on to claim that “Ukraine is an artificial state that was shaped at [Joseph] Stalin’s will,” arguing that Ukraine was created by the Soviet leadership in the 1920s and received lands to which it had no historical claim.

In a sense, he is correct, says Prof Radchenko. The Soviet leadership drew up the borders of Soviet republics “almost like the Western colonial powers drew up borders in Africa – kind of randomly.”

“But that does not mean that Ukrainians did not exist.”

More broadly, Mr Radchenko denies Mr Putin’s claims that Ukraine is not a real country because it was formed in its modern form in the 20th Century. “Any country is a fake country, in the sense that countries are created as a result of a historical process.”

“Russia was created as a result of decisions taken by the Russian tsars, such as the colonisation of Siberia, which came at the considerable expense of the local population.

“If Ukraine is a fake country, then so is Russia.”

‘Collaborating with Hitler’

Perhaps Mr Putin’s most inflammatory claim was regarding Poland. Mr Putin claimed that Poland – which was invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 – “collaborated with Hitler”.

The Russian president told his interviewer that by refusing to cede an area of Poland called the Danzig Corridor to Hitler, Poland “went too far, pushing Hitler to start World War Two by attacking them”.

For Prof Prazmowska, President Putin’s interpretation of history is a flawed reading of the historical record. She says that while it is true that there were diplomatic contacts between Poland and the Nazis – the first treaty Hitler signed after coming to power was a non-aggression pact with Poland in 1934 – Mr Putin is conflating diplomatic outreach to a threatening neighbour with collaboration.

“The accusation that the Poles were collaborating is nonsense,” says Mrs Prazmowska.

“You can’t interpret these things as if this were collaboration with Nazi Germany, because it just so happened that the Soviet Union also signed treaties with Germany [at the same time].”

In September 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland according to the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between both states earlier that year.

Hungary resignations leave Viktor Orban in biggest crisis yet

Hungarian President Katalin Novak delivering her speech in the Alexander Palace in Budapest, Hungary, 10 February 2024
Image caption,Katalin Novak resigned as president on Saturday, then the justice minister stood down as an MP

This has become the biggest threat to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s rule since he returned to power in 2010.

Hungary has been shaken by the sudden resignations of the two most popular and successful women in an otherwise strongly male-dominated governing party.

President Katalin Novak and former Justice Minister Judit Varga have both taken responsibility for the decision to grant clemency to Endre K, former deputy director of a state orphanage.

Endre K was jailed for persuading children to withdraw their testimony against the director of the orphanage for sexual abuse.

He was one of 25 people pardoned by the president during a visit by Pope Francis last year. But his name only became public on 2 February.

The issue has become deeply problematic for a government which has made protection of children and traditional family values the cornerstone of its policies.

Worst of all for Mr Orban and his party, the departures of the two women have been followed by an avalanche of allegations about the way he runs the country.

And this double resignation, coming amid increasing protests, has deprived Viktor Orban of two very different but essential allies.

President Novak radiated a “mother of the nation” image, closely identified with popular policies to encourage couples to have more children. She also promoted a more inclusive, less aggressive style than the prime minister in her largely symbolic role as head of state.

The tough-talking Judit Varga had been due to lead the governing Fidesz party into battle against the “Brussels bureaucrats” in the European elections in June. Now she has resigned as an MP and withdrawn from public life.

Former Hungarian Minister of Justice Judit Varga in Brussels in July 2023
Image caption,Until her resignation, Judit Varga was a high-profile Fidesz figure destined to play a key role in the European elections in June

Two other key figures have come under attack too – Mr Orban’s communications chief Antal Rogan, who is also in charge of the secret services, and Zoltan Balog, a Protestant bishop and personal adviser to the prime minister.

Mr Balog is alleged to have lobbied behind the scenes for the presidential clemency in the Endre K case. He has denied the allegation.

Within minutes of Judit Varga’s resignation, her ex-husband, powerful Fidesz insider Peter Magyar, announced: “I do not want to be part of a system for a minute longer where the real culprits hide behind women’s skirts.”

“For a long time, I believed in an ideal, in a national, sovereign, civic Hungary,” he complained. “However, over the past few years and especially today, I have come to realise all this is indeed just a political product, a sugary coating that serves only two purposes: to conceal the operation of the power factory and to acquire enormous wealth.”

He followed that up with a 100-minute interview on Sunday evening to the government-critical Partizan channel on YouTube, which has now been viewed 1.4 million times.

Each day, he posts new criticism of government figures on Facebook.

On Tuesday, he singled out Antal Rogan, the government’s communications maestro, asking him why he was staying silent, hiding behind the prime minister’s spokesman.

“You used to cut a much tougher figure,” he said. “Why are you hiding from your constituents? Why haven’t you held a press conference for years? Are you afraid to answer questions?”

Then he turned on Istvan Tiborcz, the son-in-law of the prime minister and husband of Mr Orban’s daughter Rahel.

“Dear Stephen [Istvan], you are a really talented person, at the age of 37, you have 100bn Forints (£220m), so many hotels, banks, fund managers, valuable former state-owned properties.”

“What other companies have you taken over lately? What is the total of government loans or grants you received to build your portfolio? Have you recently visited villages in Borsod [in northeast Hungary], where children sometimes play in the yard without warm clothes in winter?”

People walk on the Chain Bridge as they take part in a protest to demand the resignation of Hungarian President Katalin Novak
Image caption,Ahead of President Novak’s resignation protesters marched in Budapest to object to the pardon she had given last year

Opposition parties have tabled demands to investigate how the clemency was granted, how the state is run, and to call for the direct election of the next president.

The response of the government and of pro-government media has been furious.

“We do not respond to the desperate attempts of people in hopeless situations,” insisted the prime minister’s spokesman, Bertalan Havasi, about Peter Magyar.

“We must demonstrate our strength, because the pack of hyenas, these completely amoral, lying bastards… now smell blood because they think that the moment has come,” wrote Zsolt Bayer in the government flagship daily, Magyar Nemzet.

He went on to propose a show of strength by government supporters on 15 March, a national holiday: “”Let’s show them that the moment hasn’t bloody well come!”

Another commentator, Zsolt Jeszenszky, did not hold back in the government tabloid, Pesti Sracok.

“Those who proclaim [Judit Varga] an ally of paedophiles, who foam at the mouth demanding her head, are the same vile, satanic mob who demanded the death of Christ from Pontius Pilate,” he fumed. “The scum, the sewer rats, have not changed in 2,000 years.”

From the prime minister himself there has been strict silence. At least for now.

It is without doubt his biggest challenge in 14 years of uninterrupted Fidesz rule and the high-profile resignations have dented but not yet seriously damaged his power.

An anti-Orban protest is planned for Friday, but the prime minister will come out fighting, presumably on Saturday when he is due to deliver his annual state of the nation address.