The current situation and prospects for Southeast Asia in 2018

The upcoming national elections in a number of countries in the region in 2018 and 2019 would influence the political landscape of South-East Asia, RISS expert Irina Komissina said. In her opinion, the past year turned out to be turbulent for Southeast Asia due to a number of significant events in the region. They are: crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State which caused a significant flow of refugees to neighboring Bangladesh; attack of ISIS on the Philippine City of Marawi; rise of religious tensions in Indonesia, demonstrated the growing influence of conservative and Islamist groups; the death of Thai King Rama IX; and the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The upcoming elections to be held in Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The disunited opposition in Malaysia nominated Mohammad Mahathir, father of the Malaysian economic miracle, as a candidate for Prime Minister. Such a worthy candidate is able to move away the pro-government party coalition “National Front.”

Cambodian elections are unlikely to come as a surprise. RISS expert notes that “in November 2017, the Supreme court of Cambodia banned the main opposition force of the country.” Despite strong criticism from the international community, the Prime Minister promised to hold the elections on time, saying that Cambodia doesn’t need the UN recognition of its legitimacy.”

The electoral process in Thailand is a far more significant event. “This will be the first general elections after the military powers came to power in the country in May 2014. The junta promised to hold free elections and not to organize another coup after them. The new election law, passed in January 2018, set the election date for February 2019,” I.Komissina said.

According to the researcher, Indonesian politicians have also begun preparations for the elections scheduled for April 2019. “The situation is extremely favorable for the current President of Indonesia Joko Widodo. More than half of the parties planning to participate in the elections have already bet on him, while the rest are still thinking,” she said.

Asia Cambodia Indonesia Malaysia Thailand elections