TIME person of the year

How International Leaders Are Doing in TIME’s Person of the Year Poll

Modi, Merkel, Putin and more

Vote Now for TIME’s Person of the Year.

This time last year, Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate. He was also among the world leaders and politicians featured in TIME’s Person of the Year readers’ poll for 2013, finishing at fourth place with 14% of the vote. This year, Modi, who got the top job after the BJP stormed to victory in India’s national elections in May, is leading the readers’ poll with over 10.7% of the votes cast as of Thursday afternoon.

With nine days to go until voting closes, here’s a look at the world leaders who fared best in the 2013 poll—and where they stand this year.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egyptian President

2013 rank: 1. Current rank in 2014 poll: 38th

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was still sporting a generals’ epaulettes on his shoulders when TIME readers crowned him the winner of the 2013 Person of the Year poll. By January, the general—who ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last summer—had become a field marshal. And soon the uniform was replaced with a dark suit as al-Sisi ran for the presidency, eventually winning the May elections by a wide margin.

As we noted when he spoke to TIME in September, his rule has been widely criticized for crackdowns on Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and on free speech and journalists. Talking about Morsi’s ouster in 2013, al-Sisi defended the military’s action, saying “it was the Egyptian people who demanded that change of identity.”

Should Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President

2013 rank: 2. Current rank in 2014 poll: 40th

When he finished second in the 2013 poll, Erdogan was Turkey’s Prime Minister, a job he would have had to give up next year because of term limits set by his ruling Justice and Development, or AK, party. And so, after over a decade as P.M., he contested what were the country’s first direct presidential elections, promising to add some executive heft to the largely ceremonial office. Voters responded in droves. Despite facing anti-government protests during his final term as Prime Minister, he comfortably swept to victory in August, cementing his position as the most powerful Turkish leader in decades. He has also found himself a new home: a sprawling palace four times the size of Louis XIV’s extravagant digs in Versailles and, according to reports, no less sumptuous, with green granite inlays and washrooms decked in silk wallpaper. Originally intended for the Prime Minister, it reportedly cost more than $600 million to erect.

Should Recep Tayyip Erdogan Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister

2013 rank: 4. Current rank in 2014 poll: 1st

Modi was one of the strongest performers in the TIME readers’ poll last year. At the time, the controversial Indian politician was already widely tipped to lead his party to victory and unseat the ruling Congress Party-led coalition government in elections in May, 2014. Few, however, predicted the scale of his eventual triumph, with the BJP securing the first parliamentary majority for a single party in 30 years. Promising to revive India’s slowing economy, Modi tapped into disenchantment with the Congress, the grand old party of Indian independence which, by the end of its latest term in office, was mired in a series of high-profile corruption scandals and struggling to boost growth.

Should Narendra Modi Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

Bashar al-Assad

2013 rank: 10. Current rank in 2014 poll: 25th

With the Syrian conflict now in its fourth year, Assad continues to hold on to power in Damascus, even as vast swathes of the country fall into the hands of extremist militants. On Wednesday, Russia reaffirmed it’s support for the Assad regime, with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying: “We share the view that the main factor driving the situation in the Middle East is the terrorist threat. Russia will continue supporting Syria … in countering this threat.”

Should Bashar al-Assad Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

Other leaders from the 2013 poll who also feature in this year’s survey include the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who came 11th last year and currently stands at 5th place, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who came 15th last year and current stands at 16th place.

Since 1927, TIME has named a person who for better or worse has most influenced the news and our lives in the past year.

The Person of the Year is selected by TIME’s editors, but readers are asked to weigh in by commenting on any TIME Facebook post that includes #TIMEPOY, tweeting your vote using #TIMEPOY, or by heading over to TIME.com’s Person of the Year voting hub, where Pinnion’s technology is recording, visualizing and analyzing results as they are received. Votes from Twitter, Facebook and TIME.com’s voting hub are pooled together to create the totals displayed on the site. You can see the results of the poll and vote on your choice for person of the year here.

TIME Mexico

Mexico President Announces Anti-Crime Plan as 11 Burned Bodies Found

MEXICO-PRESIDENT-PENA NIETO
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto gives a speech at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, on November 27, 2014. Alfredo Estrella—AFP/Getty Images

Mexico's president announced a nationwide anti-crime plan on Thursday

(MEXICO CITY) — Mexico’s president announced a nationwide anti-crime plan on Thursday, the same day police found the partly burned bodies of 11 men dumped on the side of a road in the southern state of Guerrero.

President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed giving Congress the power to dissolve corrupt municipal governments and placing local police forces under the control of the country’s 31 state governments. He also called for some form of national identity document.

The plan would also relax the complex divisions between which offenses are dealt with at federal, state and local levels. At present, some local police refuse to act to prevent federal crimes like drug trafficking.

The plan would focus first on four of Mexico’s most troubled states, Guerrero, Michoacan, Jalisco and Tamaulipas, sending more federal police and other forces to those states.

The plan came two months after the disappearance of 43 students at a teachers college in the Guerrero city of Iguala. They were reportedly killed and incinerated by a drug gang. Pena Nieto suggested the plan was influenced by those disappearances, whose “cruelty and barbarity have shocked Mexico.”

“Mexico cannot go on like this,” Pena Nieto said. “After Iguala, Mexico must change.”

The reforms, some of which would require constitutional changes, will be formally presented next week.

The focus on corrupt local governments reflects the shocking accusations made about the mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca. Prosecutors say he collaborated with a local drug gang and ordered the detention of the students by local police, who turned them over to gang gunmen.

Municipal governments currently enjoy high levels of autonomy and control their own police forces, something the president is now seeking to weaken.

Pena Nieto began his administration in 2012 hoping to concentrate on economic and legal reforms, and avoid the focus on drug-gang violence that had dominated the term of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

Thursday marked Pena Nieto’s first broad policy statement on the subject, tacit acknowledgement that the issue had become unavoidable.

That was made more evident by the dumping of 11 partly burned, decapitated bodies on a road in Guerrero, not far from the rural teachers college that the missing students attended.

The Guerrero state government said the victims had been shot to death, and their heads have not been found. Their bodies were found early Thursday near the city of Chilapa, an area that is known for gang violence and plantations of opium poppies.

The new anti-crime plan follows repeated earlier attempts to tackle the subject, with mixed results.

An anti-crime plan instituted in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in 2010 was credited by some with helping reduce that city’s murder rate. In early 2014, a federal plan harnessed the power of citizen vigilante groups to break a drug cartel’s stronghold on the western state of Michoacan.

Similar broad, federal anti-crime plans announced in 2004 and 2008 brought some improvements in areas such as vetting of police, but still failed to prevent some entire municipal police forces from being coopted by crime gangs.

TIME Pakistan

Bollywood Actress Veena Malik Sentenced to 26 Years in Jail For Blasphemy

Veena Malik during promotional event
Veena Malik promotes her movie Zindagi 50 50 at the India Today multiplex in Noida, India. Ramesh Sharma—India Today Group/Getty Images

The actress appeared in a scene that referenced Muhammad's daughter

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced film and television star Veena Malik to 26 years in jail after she appeared in a scene that the Guardian describes as “loosely based on the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.”

The sentence stemmed from a blasphemy charge, which was also levied at Malik’s husband, businessman Asad Bashir Khan and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of the Jang-Geo media group which aired the TV show, for their parts in the scene which aired in May. Khan and Shakil-ur-Rahman were also sentenced to 26 years. None of the accused were present in court.

The offending scene was a reenactment of Malik and Khan’s own wedding, acted as musicians played a devotional song about the wedding of a daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. After the episode aired, the senior vice president of a chapter of the Muslim religious organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat made an official complaint, saying the show had defiled the family of the Prophet Muhammad, by using the religious music.

The sentence was handed down by judge Raja Shahbaz, who said, “The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency.”

[Guardian]

TIME Soccer

Soccer Legend Pele Transferred to ‘Special Care’ Unit

Hospital says Brazilian football star's health became unstable

SAO PAULO — A Brazilian hospital says soccer great Pele has been transferred to a “special care” unit to be monitored while being treated for a urinary infection.

The Albert Einstein hospital said in a statement Thursday that the 74-year-old Pele was transferred after his condition became unstable.

The hospital’s press office said the three-time World Cup champion was not in an intensive care unit.

Pele was admitted to the hospital on Monday for a medical evaluation and was diagnosed with the urinary infection. He was being treated with antibiotics.

No other details were immediately available.

Pele was in the same hospital less than 15 days ago to undergo surgery to remove kidney stones.

 

TIME

Oil Prices in Freefall as OPEC Fails to Agree Output Cut

OPEC Secretary-General al-Badri addresses a news conference after a meeting of OPEC oil ministers at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna
OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri addresses a news conference after a meeting of OPEC oil ministers at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna November 27, 2014. Heinz-Peter Bader—Reuters

Oil futures fall nearly 8% to their lowest in five years as Saudi Arabia tries to squeeze U.S. shale industry

Oil prices fell to their lowest level in over five years Thursday as the cartel that produces one third of the world’s output failed to agree on measures to tackle the current glut.

In what had been billed as their most important meeting in decades, ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to keep their self-imposed output ceiling at 30 million barrels a day, but promised each other they would cheat less on their agreed quotas.

Such promises have rarely held in the past, and the markets reacted by driving the price of the benchmark crude futures contract down nearly 8% to below $69. Oil hasn’t been that cheap since August 2009. Prices have now fallen by over 30% since the summer, and by 13% in November alone.

That’s going to make a Happy Thanksgiving for drivers, who are already seeing pump prices of under $3/gallon in the U.S., as well as for airlines, logistics companies, plastics and chemicals companies, all of whom have huge outlays on fuel and oil-based feedstocks. It’s also good news for retailers, who will hope to benefit from the fact that consumers have more disposable income.

But it’s less good news for the shale oil industry, which may find at least some of its investments losing money as the oil price heads firmly lower.

Thursday’s decision effectively sets the level of OPEC output for the whole of the first half of next year, news agencies quoted Abdalla El-Badri, OPEC’s Secretary-General, as saying. If that’s true, then any reduction in world output will likely be driven by marginal fields in the U.S.

The decision is a victory for Saudi Arabia, which can better afford to play a long game with U.S. producers than its poorer colleagues in OPEC, such as Venezuela and Iran.

“It was a great decision,” Reuters quoted Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi as saying as he emerged smiling after around five hours of talks.

According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, the cartel’s 12 members are currently produced 30.66 million barrels a day in October, so even if they were completely faithful about sticking to their quotas, they still wouldn’t cut output by enough to bring it into line with global demand for their oil, which the IEA puts at 29.3 million b/d next year.

Some of the OPEC ministers have made no secret of their desire to use a lower price to stop the rise in oil production from U.S. shale, which along with other “non-OPEC” sources of supply is running way ahead of demand from a world economy that has palpably slowed down this year.

The United Arab Emirates’ oil minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui told the Financial Times Wednesday that the market would correct itself and that “there is nothing to cause us to panic.”

That wasn’t quite the view from countries that need a higher oil price to balance their budgets. The Russian ruble fell to a new all-time low on the news, with the dollar crashing through 48 rubles and the euro topping 60, both for the first time ever. The benchmark RTS stock index fell 2.1% close to a new five-year low.

Russia needs an oil price over $100/bbl to balance its budget. But the news agency Interfax quoted Maxim Oreshkin, a senior finance ministry official, as saying that even a forecast of $80 was “moderately optimistic” for the next years, in view of OPEC’s decision.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME India

Indian Girls Who Were Believed Murdered Took Their Own Lives

An official investigation into the gang-rape and murder of two girls in India in May rules that the victims actually committed suicide

Following worldwide outrage over the alleged gang-rape and murder of two girls, aged 14 and 15, in India earlier this year, the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has now ruled that the girls took their own lives and were not gang-raped and murdered.

When the two girls were found hanging from a tree in a field near their home in the Badaun district in the state of Uttar Pradesh last May, it was widely reported that they had been gang-raped and killed. According to the BBC, an exam initially confirmed several sexual assaults and death due to hanging and three men were arrested in connection with the girls’ deaths.

The men were released on bail in September and, according to the CBI’s investigation, subsequent forensic tests have since concluded the girls were not sexually assaulted. “Based on around 40 scientific reports the CBI has concluded that the two minor girls in the Badaun case had not been raped and murdered as had been alleged,” CBI spokeswoman Kanchan Prasad told the BBC on Thursday. “Investigation has concluded that it is a case of suicide.”

Women’s activists and the families of the girls have voiced their suspicions over the CBI’s findings.

“CBI has tried to fudge the case and save the accused from the very beginning,” Sohan Lal, father of one of the girls, told the BBC. “I am very angry with their decision. The team did not show any promptness while investigating the case.”

MORE: Photos of The Indian Village Shocked By Brutal Rape and Murder Case

[BBC]

TIME France

France Considers Scrapping Its 35-Hour Working Week

The French 35-hour working week might be under threat in light of the country's economic woes

France has long had the reputation of taking a lax approach to working life. But now, the New York Times reports that the country is reconsidering the official 35-hour working week amid reports that the policy is abused by employers and creating financial hardships for employees.

The shorter working week was implemented in 2000 by the then-Socialist government as a way to stimulate job creation. But according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, French employees work an average of 39.5 hours per week, just shy of the eurozone average of 40.9 hours per week. According to the Times, the shorter working week hasn’t kept unemployment down — which is at 10.2 percent in France — and might even have led to the rise in part-time contracts, which employers increasingly use to avoid having to pay full-time staff overtime.

[NYT]

TIME United Kingdom

Scotland to Be Handed ‘Biggest Transfer of Powers’ in a Historic Move

Commission set up after the independence referendum urges the biggest transfer of power in Scotland's history

The Scottish Parliament is set to be given new powers over tax and welfare as part of a deal following September’s referendum, when the country voted against independence.

The Smith Commission, after a month of talks between British political parties, has recommended that Scotland be given further powers. Speaking on Thursday, Lord Smith of Kelvin, head of the Commission, urged for Scotland to have responsibility for an estimated £14 billion of income tax and welfare benefits, the Guardian reports.

The British government welcomed the report, but Scottish ministers said it was disappointing and fell far short of promises made during the referendum campaign.

More constitutional change in the United Kingdom is expected over the coming years, allowing for more devolution within England and Wales.

MORE: Scotland’s vote signals big change for U.K. and the rest of Europe

[Guardian]

TIME russia

Watch Dozens of Passengers Help Push a Frozen Russian Plane

A group of intrepid passengers helped push a plane stuck on a Russian tarmac despite freezing temperatures

Though it sounds like a punchline of a joke, scores of passengers at an airport in Igarka, Russia, located about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, tried to push a frozen aircraft that was stuck on the tarmac on Wednesday. It wasn’t an easy task. The New York Times reports that the temperature in Igarka was -47.2°F (-44°C) and the aircraft, a Tupolev-134 jet, weighed 70-tonnes.

Oksana Gorbunova, a spokeswoman for the West Siberia Transportation Prosecutor, told Tass news agency: “In order to deliver the plane to the taxiway, the passengers were invited to leave the plane and move to a bus parked nearby. After that, some of them arbitrarily left the bus and approached the plane trying to assist with the use of physical force.”

A video of the mission was recorded and uploaded to YouTube where it quickly went viral.

Though there have been conflicting reports on why the plane broke down — and who was responsible for the mishap — the transportation prosecutor told the New York Times in a statement that the aircraft’s braking system had frozen and another key part had stalled. The statement added that prosecutors “will assess the legality of the actions of all those involved.”

[NYT]

TIME Middle East

Israel Says It Busted Hamas Cell Planning Attacks

More than 30 arrested in West Bank raids

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Thursday it had uncovered a vast Hamas network in the West Bank that was planning large-scale attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem.

The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 30 Hamas militants who planned to kidnap Israelis and carry out attacks against Jerusalem’s light rail and its largest soccer stadium, among other targets. It said the men were trained and recruited in Jordan and Turkey and that various arms and explosives were recovered.

While the Islamic militant group Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is run by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The arrests come amid Israel’s worst sustained bout of violence in nearly a decade. Eleven Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks over the past month, including five people who were killed with guns and meat cleavers in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue last week. Most of the violence has occurred in Jerusalem, along with deadly attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

Hamas did not immediately comment on the arrests.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the Shin Bet for thwarting the attacks, saying that if carried out they could have exacted a heavy toll of casualties.

“This is one operation that has been published but there are many more that remain secret,” he said of Israel’s intelligence work. “These foiling activities are against terrorists and against Hamas, which challenges the existence of a Jewish nation-state and the existence of Jews in general.”

 

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