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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

A Turn Toward Authoritarianism in the Philippines?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rodrigo-Duterte Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte raises a clenched fist aboard a truck during election campaigning for May 2016 national elections in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

As I wrote last week, the Philippines’ presidential race is still extremely close, going into the final days before Election Day. But as numerous Philippine polling organizations have reported, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte maintains a slim lead over his closest challenger, Senator Grace Poe, and over the other three major candidates. Since there is no runoff system like that of the French presidential election, which has more than one round, Duterte could win the presidency with a plurality 30 to 35 percent of the total votes. Read more »

Further Signs of Southeast Asia’s Political Regression

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha looks on before a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 26, 2016. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Three new annual reports, from the U.S. State Department, Freedom House, and Reporters without Borders, add further evidence to worries that much of Southeast Asia is experiencing an authoritarian revival. Released this week, Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report (for which I served as a consultant for several Southeast Asia chapters) reveals that in nearly all the ten ASEAN nations, press freedom regressed significantly last year. Freedom House’s findings are similar those of Reporters Without Borders annual Press Freedom Index, which was released earlier this month. Read more »

What Does the Rise of State Capitalism Mean for the World?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petrobras Workers repair a tank of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company in Cubatao, Brazil, on April 12, 2016. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

In just the past year, major scandals have erupted at several of the world’s most influential state-owned companies, with repercussions going far beyond the boardrooms. In Brazil, graft scandals centered on state-owned petroleum company Petrobras have triggered waves of arrests and played a role in the ongoing impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Meanwhile, in Malaysia investigations continue into allegations of massive irregularities in state fund 1MDB, allegations that have shaken the government of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak and reportedly triggered investigations into 1MDB in Singapore, Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia. Read more »

How Has the Rebalance Affected Security Assistance to Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-philippines U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honor guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 15, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the Philippines, an increasingly important U.S. security partner. In the Philippines, where he observed the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises, Carter made several important announcements. He revealed that the United States and the Philippines are, and will be, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Carter also offered specifics on new U.S. assistance to the Philippines as part of the new U.S. Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia, a program conceived by the Senate Armed Services Committee and designed to provide U.S. aid to Southeast Asian nations to bolster their maritime capabilities. Read more »

Brunei Desperately Looks to Diversify its Economy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sultan-Hassanal-Bolkiah U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuter)

The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei remains almost totally dependent on petroleum for its growth, to provide its lavish social welfare programs—and to help reduce any possible opposition to the ruling sultan. Today, about 95 percent of Brunei’s exports are either oil or in some way related to oil, according to the Diplomat. Brunei’s oil has helped make it the fourth-richest country in the world by GDP per capita. But with low global oil prices, and Brunei’s oil reserves predicted to run out within the next three decades, the sultanate is desperately looking for ways to diversify its economy. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »

The Islamic State in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

After the attacks in Jakarta in January, in which a group of gunmen, apparently overseen by a man affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State, shot and bombed their way through a downtown neighborhood, Southeast Asian governments began to openly address the threat of Islamic State-linked radicals. The region’s intelligence agencies, and especially Singapore intelligence, had been warning for at least two years that Southeast Asian men and women were traveling to Islamic State-controlled territory for training and inspiration, and that the region’s governments had no effective way to track these militants’ return. Read more »

How Will the Philippines Presidential Election Transform the Country?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
philipines-grace-poe Philippine presidential candidate Grace Poe speaks at International Women's Day rally by Gabriela Party List women's group in Manila on March 8, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

On May 9, the Philippines will hold its presidential election. Philippine presidents are limited to one, six-year term, which makes them powerful and weak at the same time. They enjoy a long term in office, removing them from the regular grind of campaigning that is common in many other democracies. But, as soon as they are inaugurated, they become a kind of lame duck. Read more »

Assessing Myanmar’s New Cabinet

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-nld-cabinet National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the parliament building after a meeting with members of her party in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on March 28, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced the first Cabinet proposed by its NLD-dominated government. Although a handful of important ministries, like defense, were reserved for the armed forces, the NLD took most of the other important posts. In fact, Suu Kyi herself decided to take four ministerial posts, including the foreign ministry. Read more »