Ways to revive Asia’s declining democracy


The pandemic has only emboldened [Asia’s] authoritarian tendencies. But, to revert to financial metaphors, even if a cyclical recovery is not inevitable, there is still scope for secular improvement, The Economist writes:

Parliamentary systems are embedded in enough Asian countries to allow democratic consolidation to reassert itself after strongman rule. India, after all, recovered from the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship between 1975 and 1977. Elsewhere, work by Don Lee of Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and Fernando Casal Bértoa of the University of Nottingham suggests that the accretive habits of democratic elections help keep the worst instincts of past authoritarianism at bay. ….Above all young Asians offer hope. They are sick of rigged political systems, graft-based economies and poor job prospects. In 2022 Malaysia is a country to watch. New automatic voter registration and a lowering of the voting age will swell the electorate by over a third.

The Summit for Democracy provided an opportunity to address democracy’s existential crisis by cultivating democratic cooperation and solidarity, Lynn Lee, Associate Director for Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), told a forum (see below) on a new CSIS report, Enhancing Democratic Partnership in the Indo-Pacific Region.

The US strategy for advancing democratic governance will be more effective if it is developed and implemented in consultation with like-minded regional states, wrote CSIS experts Michael J. Green, Nicholas Szechenyi and Hannah Fodale. The report draws on case studies of the democracy assistance efforts of Australia, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan to identify three priorities for U.S. engagement on democracy in the Indo-Pacific region.

More stable democracies elsewhere can help [their Asian counterparts] in practical ways, such as by supporting independent media, The Economist adds. When Maria Ressa won the Nobel peace prize, even Mr Duterte, who has hounded her and her brave news website, Rappler, was forced to congratulate her. Count that, in 2021, as a success. RTWT

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