Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Populists in a pandemic

US President Donald Trump speaks with President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines, 13 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

When the former mayor of the southern city of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, surged ahead of his establishment rivals in the 2016 presidential elections, some western media fell back on labelling him the ‘Trump of the East’. Read more…

Rodrigo Duterte’s war on many fronts

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his State of the Nation Address at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, 27 July 2020 (Photo: Presidential Photos via Reuters).

Author: Julio C Teehankee, De La Salle University

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address as the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic continues. Instead of providing a concrete plan to address the rise and spread of the virus, he used the opportunity to attack his political enemies and reiterate his declaration of a war on many fronts. The populist president vowed to ‘fight this pandemic with the same fervour as our campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, insurgency, and corruption in high places and entrenched parochial interests’. Read more…

No end to Malaysia’s political games after Najib’s courtroom downfall

Police officers stand guard outside Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The rule of law isn’t so much about the absence of abuse of power — it’s about the absence of impunity. That’s why Malaysians can be gratified with the guilty verdict handed down against their former prime minister Najib Razak, who on 28 July was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million on charges relating to his role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. Read more…

Najib verdict complicates Malaysia’s game of thrones

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak leaves a courtroom for a break at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Francis E Hutchinson, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

On 28 July, Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak made history when he became the country’s highest-ranking official to be convicted in court. Najib was found guilty of seven criminal charges relating to his role in the 1MDB investment fund corruption scandal. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million. Najib remains on bail pending appeal, but more charges are on the table regarding misappropriation of funds. Read more…

Will Yuriko Koike become Japan’s first female PM?

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike gestures as she attends a joint news conference with Japan's Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and other panel members after their talks on the latest situation of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, 10 July, 2020. (Reuters/Issei Kato).

Author: Craig Mark, Kyoritsu Women’s University

The first female governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, was easily re-elected in the gubernatorial poll on 5 July, winning 59.7 per cent of the vote from a 55 per cent turnout. Koike defeated a divided field of a record 21 opposing candidates, securing another four-year term in office. Read more…

Media repression and authoritarianism a new normal in the Philippines

Journalists cover as ABS-CBN news chief Ging Reyes speaks to fellow employees and supporters of the broadcast network, following the Philippine congress' vote against its franchise renewal, outside the ABS-CBN headquarters, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 10 July 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Author: Danilo Araña Arao, UP Diliman

On 6 July the House of Representatives of the Philippines (HOR) ended its 12th and final public hearing on the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, a leading broadcast network in the Philippines which was ordered closed by the government. The HOR’s decision of non-renewal reflects growing media repression in the Philippines. Read more…

Early election backfires on Singapore’s ruling party

Voters practice social distancing while queuing at a polling station during Singapore's general election amid the COVID-19 outbreak, 10 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Garry Rodan, UQ

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) election victory on 10 July, winning 83 out of 93 seats, was emphatic. Still, the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) gains from six to ten seats mark a political watershed in the tightly controlled city-state: its highest parliamentary representation since Singapore’s independence in 1965.

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COVID-19 taps the accelerator in Malaysian politics

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin reacts during a session of the lower house of parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 13 July, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Huey Teng).

Author: William Case, University of Nottingham Malaysia

The COVID-19 crisis has served as a fierce accelerant in Malaysia’s politics. Amid the fog of pandemic, a trajectory of events that might have unfolded anyway has been catalysed. Malaysia’s new Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) government has restored the country’s politics to old contours of party-state fusion and hybrid modes of authoritarian control.

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PAP’s self-inflicted Singapore election losses

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching arrive at a polling station during Singapore's general election amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore, 10 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Bridget Welsh, University of Nottingham Malaysia and National Taiwan University

On 10 July, Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) suffered one of its worst electoral results: 61 per cent of the popular vote. The opposition Workers’ Party (WP) now holds 10 of 93 parliamentary seats.

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Singaporeans send a message

Workers hang up electoral poster for ruling People's Action Party ahead of the general election in Singapore, 30 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

On 10 July Singapore held a general election that was noteworthy for more than its setting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The governing People’s Action Party (PAP) won reelection with a reduced share of the popular vote — just over 61 per cent, down from just under 70 per cent in 2015, though opposition parties won only 10 seats in the 93-seat parliament.

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Singapore government in denial

Heng Swee Keat of the People's Action Party meets residents during a walkabout ahead of the general election in Singapore, 28 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Michael Barr, Flinders University

The People’s Action Party (PAP) government of Singapore has suffered its worst ever election result, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has suggested merely that the result was ‘not as strong an endorsement as hoped’.

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China–India relations plummet to new lows in the Himalayas

Demonstrators shout slogans as they burn an effigy depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping during a protest against China, in Kolkata, India, 18 June, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri).

Author: Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Boston University

The relationship between China and India has reached a dangerous low. The recent clash between Chinese and Indian troops resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers and the injury of many others. The conflict took place in the Galwan River Valley in the Himalayan border region of Ladakh at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Read more…

Another Act against democracy in the Philippines

A protestor wears a mask with the face of President Rodrigo Duterte and a clown wig during a rally against the anti-terrorism bill on Independence Day, in University of the Philippines, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 12 June, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lopez).

Author: Luke Lischin, National War College

Awaiting the signature of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, the result of longstanding congressional debate and controversy surrounding the Human Security Act (HSA) implemented in 2007. The latter has been accused of eroding critical protections against government overreach in the fight against terrorism.

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Landslide victory for MPP incumbents as Mongolians vote in record numbers

People cycle past the parliament building at Genghis Square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Authors: Byambajav Dalaibuyan, Mongolian Institute for Innovative Policies and Julian Dierkes, UBC

On the morning of 24 June 2020, Mongolian social media was abuzz with posts of Ulaanbaatar residents proclaiming to have voted in the election. Some were wearing colourful deel — Mongolia’s national costume — to emphasise the sense of civic duty and respect attached to the act of voting. Polling stations closed 15 hours later amid heavy rain, localised flooding and even hail.

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The end of ‘one country, two systems’?

Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China, 25 August , 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kurniawan).

Author: Joseph Yu Shek Cheng, Hong Kong

In May 2020, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) passed a resolution to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. Chinese leaders defended the move as essential for China’s security — closing a gap that could be exploited by hostile countries to introduce a colour revolution to China. Hong Kong’s Basic Law allows the NPC to introduce legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), to be attached to Annex III. This provision allows Chinese authorities to retain final legal control.

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