Trump’s trail­blaz­ers: Bil­lion­aires who turned to pol­i­tics

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

IF DON­ALD Trump wins the White House to­mor­row, he’ll be­come America’s first bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man to serve as pres­i­dent. But he’ll be fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of other moguls who have jumped into the po­lit­i­cal fray else­where in the world.

The track record for these busi­ness­men-turned-po­lit­i­cal lead­ers is de­cid­edly mixed. Some have trans­lated their pri­vate-sec­tor ac­u­men into suc­cess in govern­ment. Oth­ers had tenures marked by scan­dal, and even a mil­i­tary coup.

Amer­i­cans have elected pres­i­dents with busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore – among them, Ge­orge W. Bush, who ran an oil com­pany, and Her­bert Hoover, a min­ing ex­ec­u­tive. But all moved into pol­i­tics be­fore run­ning for the na­tion’s high­est of­fice. Trump would be the first Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to never have held elected of­fice, or other high-level govern­ment or mil­i­tary post.

The real es­tate mag­nate has long pro­moted his busi­ness back­ground as a sell­ing point for vot­ers frus­trated with ca­reer politi­cians.

“We need peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton that know how to make a deal,” Trump says.

SIL­VIO BER­LUS­CONI, ITALY

TRUMP HAS drawn more com­par­isons to the brash Ber­lus­coni, a three-term Ital­ian prime min­is­ter, than per­haps any other world leader.

Both are ir­rev­er­ent and con­tro­ver­sial, and they like to flaunt their lav­ish life­styles. Each started his ca­reers in real es­tate, but made his name in the me­dia world: Ber­lus­coni built a for­tune buy­ing up tele­vi­sion sta­tions and Trump be­came a fix­ture in the New York tabloids and re­al­ity TV.

For Trump, that’s prob­a­bly about where he’d like the com­par­isons to end.

Ber­lus­coni was a fix­ture in Ital­ian pol­i­tics for two decades, but his time in of­fice was fre­quently marred by scan­dal. He was con­victed of mul­ti­ple crimes, in­clud­ing tax fraud and pay­ing for sex with an un­der­age pros­ti­tute, though the lat­ter charge was over­turned by an ap­peals court.

PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINE

KNOWN AS Ukraine’s ‘Choco­late King,’ Poroshenko made his for­tune in the con­fec­tionary in­dus­try. Now he’s a key Western part­ner in try­ing to re­solve the heated dis­pute be­tween Ukraine and Rus­sia.

Poroshenko was elected pres­i­dent in 2014 fol­low­ing the pub­lic up­ris­ing that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s proRus­sian leader. The bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man po­si­tioned him­self as a friend of Europe and the United States, and in­deed speaks and meets reg­u­larly with both Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and VicePres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

But Poroshenko’s ten­ure has co­in­cided with more Rus­sian med­dling in Ukraine, par­tic­u­larly along the coun­try’s shared bor­der. The US has sent Ukraine tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in non­lethal aid; Obama has re­sisted calls to send lethal as­sis­tance.

It’s un­clear what type of sup­port Poroshenko would have from the US un­der a po­ten­tial Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump has spo­ken favourably about Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Trump has said he would be “look­ing at” whether to recog­nise Crimea – a Ukrainian area an­nexed by Moscow – as Rus­sian ter­ri­tory.

Poroshenko’s tran­si­tion from busi­ness­man to po­lit­i­cal leader also holds warn­ing signs for Trump’s fi­nan­cial fu­ture. The Ukrainian leader saw his net worth de­cline sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter tak­ing of­fice.

THAKSIN SHI­NAWA­TRA, THAI­LAND

A TELECOM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS bil­lion­aire, Thaksin was Thai­land’s prime min­is­ter un­til he was ousted in a mil­i­tary coup in 2006.

Dur­ing his ten­ure, Thaksin drew sup­port from poorer vot­ers who backed his re­duc­tion in hos­pi­tal feeds and other pop­ulist pro­grammes.

But Thaksin’s wealth would con­trib­ute to his po­lit­i­cal down­fall. He faced cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions af­ter his fam­ily sold a com­pany for $1.9 bil­lion in a way that en­abled them to avoid pay­ing taxes on the sale, spark­ing a year of po­lit­i­cal tu­mult in Thai­land that ended in the coup.

Though he’s been in ex­ile for sev­eral years, Thaksin re­mains in­volved in Thai pol­i­tics from afar. Ear­lier this year, he weighed in on Amer­i­can elec­tions, say­ing there was “some sim­i­lar­ity” be­tween him­self and Trump.

“The cul­tures are very sim­i­lar, the cul­ture of be­ing a busi­ness­man,” Thaksin told the Fi­nan­cial Times. “And then, when suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men come to pol­i­tics, they give fresh air to po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.”

SE­BASTIÁN PIÑERA, CHILE

PIÑERA’S FI­NAN­CIAL em­pire touched nu­mer­ous parts of Chilean so­ci­ety. He held stakes in the coun­try’s largest air­line, a tele­vi­sion sta­tion and the pop­u­lar soc­cer team Colo-Colo. Turn­ing to pol­i­tics, Piñera cam­paigned on his pri­vate-sec­tor ex­pe­ri­ence and be­came the first con­ser­va­tive to lead Chile since mil­i­tary rule ended in 1990. But his pres­i­dency be­gan with an in­aus­pi­cious start – a ma­jor earth­quake dis­rupted his 2010 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Chile ex­pe­ri­enced solid eco­nomic growth dur­ing Piñera’s four-year term, but the pres­i­dent him­self was deeply un­pop­u­lar. Chile’s con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits pres­i­dents from serv­ing two con­sec­u­tive terms. Piñera is el­i­gi­ble to run again in 2018.

Piñera hasn’t been shy about weigh­ing in on the US elec­tion, levying sharp crit­i­cism on Trump. Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance in New York last fall, Piñera said the Re­pub­li­can would be a di­vi­sive leader and said his elec­tion would be a “tragedy”.

AP

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump ges­tures at a cam­paign rally late Satur­day in Den­ver.

PIN­ERA

POROSHENKO

THAKSIN SHI­NAWA­TRA

BER­LUS­CONI

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