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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Showing posts for "Democracy"

Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Flight

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-flight Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman looks on during a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for fifteen hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later. Read more »

Thailand Headed for a Violent Ending

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters) Thayakorn Yosubon, the father of a pair of siblings killed in Sunday's bomb blast near an anti-government protest site, mourns as he hold a photograph of his children during their funeral at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on February 24, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters)

Clashes in Thailand between anti-government protestors and security forces have intensified. This past weekend, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at anti-government protestors in eastern Thailand and killed a five-year-old girl, and someone apparently launched two grenade attacks in Bangkok. Since this current round of demonstrations started last November, 21 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Thailand. The country has basically functioned without an effective government now for months, the once-teflon economy is sputtering, and Thais are preparing for the violence to get worse. Read more »

Behind Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen hold their weapons ready as they pull back during clashes with anti-government protesters near the Government House in Bangkok on February 18, 2014. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

For months now, protesters have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all of these places, protesters are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all of these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won elections in relatively free polls. And in nearly all of these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin. Read more »

The Limits of Speech in India

by Alyssa Ayres

India is the world’s largest democracy, with possibly the world’s largest number of political parties (six national, twenty-two regional, and 1500+ official unrecognized parties), and what must surely be the most disputatious and argumentative broadcast media. Anyone who has ever watched the myriad prime time talk shows, with six to ten guests shouting at each other (sometimes the host, too), would know what I mean. It has also been my experience over the last nearly twenty-five years traveling to and engaging with India, that people love a good argument. You can have a fierce debate over a meal, and over very serious ideas, but by the time sweets come around you’ve moved on to something else—even if you still disagree. One of the great things about India, in my view, is the wonderful acceptance of vigorous disagreement. Read more »

Thailand’s Election Day: Overall, the Voters Win, But Chaos Ahead

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters) Election commission officials display ballot papers to the media while counting votes at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy Reuters)

Despite protesters blocking voting in southern provinces and many parts of Bangkok, and despite several serious incidents of violence in Bangkok, including a gunfight in the streets, the Sunday election actually was somewhat more peaceful than expected, and turnout slightly higher than expected. The relatively high turnout, the lack of widespread violence that protest leaders surely hoped would erupt, and the fact that heads of the armed forces quietly voted, suggests that overall, Sunday was a net loss for the anti-government PDRC, though hardly a sign that the Thai government is now in the clear. Read more »

Of Democratic Systems and Processes

by Alyssa Ayres
Rahul Gandhi Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi speaks during the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in New Delhi January 17, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections.

On Monday, January 27, Indian National Congress party vice president and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi sat down for a lengthy one-on-one interview with India’s most-watched gotcha television host, Arnab Goswami (transcript here, and video here). His first in-depth interview in his nearly ten years as a member of parliament—and two years as the front face of Congress’s election campaigns—marks a new effort to make Mr. Gandhi more publicly accessible. Reportedly this is one prong of a new media strategy for Mr. Gandhi as India prepares for national elections by mid-April. Read more »

Democracy Suffers Again in 2013

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A supporter of the constitution gestures in front of a statue of Egypt's former Army Chief of Staff Abdel Moneim Riad near Tahrir square, during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo on January 15, 2014. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Courtesy Reuters) A supporter of the constitution gestures in front of a statue of Egypt's former Army Chief of Staff Abdel Moneim Riad near Tahrir square, during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo on January 15, 2014. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Courtesy Reuters)

In mid-January, millions of Egyptians voted in a constitutional referendum that won resoundingly, with a majority of 98.1 percent voting yes, according to the nation’s election commission. Egyptian leaders, and some outside observers, lauded this vote as a victory for the country’s democratic transition. Read more »

No Winners in Bangladesh

by Alyssa Ayres
People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni January 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). People look at burnt textbooks after a primary school which was supposed to be used as a polling booth was set on fire, in Feni. Nearly 60 polling stations in Bangladesh were set on fire and three people were killed on the eve of Sunday's election January 4, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

I’ve been an optimist about Bangladesh for some time now—its national development miracle, amazing social entrepreneurs, strong civil society and women-led microfinance, 160 million-strong brand of moderate Islam, and consistent economic growth. Just a few years ago Goldman Sachs put this hardworking, against-all-odds country on their list of Asia’s “Next 11” ready for takeoff. But after Sunday’s election—and I write this with a heavy heart—I’m deeply worried. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 3, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
cambodia-protest-police-clash A garment worker holds rocks as police officers stand with assault rifles in the background after clashes broke out during a protest in Phnom Penh on January 3, 2014. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy: Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Cambodian police fire on garment protesters, killing at least three. Police fired on garment workers and their supporters as they protested for higher wages on Friday. A spokesman for Phnom Penh’s police department said that three were killed and two wounded, while the United National special rapporteur to Cambodia claimed four were killed and dozens injured. Tensions began when police cracked down on a small demonstration outside a South Korean-owned factory on Thursday. Read more »

Indian State Elections Raise Questions About 2014

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the newly formed Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, hold brooms, the party's symbol, after Kejriwal's election win against Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dikshit, in New Delhi December 8, 2013 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the newly formed Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, hold brooms, the party's symbol, after Kejriwal's election win against Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dikshit, in New Delhi December 8, 2013 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy Reuters).

The results of four of the five state-level elections conducted in India over the past month were announced on Sunday, December 8. (Results from the smaller northeastern state of Mizoram were announced today, December 9, and Congress won). Since a series of pre-poll and exit poll surveys had predicted handsome gains for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the actual wins in the four states did not surprise as much as they might have absent the forecasting. But it was a rout for the Indian National Congress, the ruling party in the federal government, and many analysts are suggesting that a sense of BJP momentum will carry ahead to the national elections taking place by May 2014. Read more »