The Political Tides of South and Southeast Asia

800px-ThesouthblockdelhiIt is a year of election challenge and consequence for ten nations in the region.

By Rajendra Prabhu.

Conflicts between the religious Right and liberalizing democracy seem to be intensifying in South and Southeast Asia as several countries, including the largest, India, are passing through five-yearly election fever or are just out of an election and are grappling with residual problems. What is interesting in most of these election or post-election scenes is the public outrage at corruption in governments and the rise of the young, urban aspiring groups beyond political party constraints. It almost seems like many different countries with different ethnic groups have common problems at their political core.

General elections in India will be held in April-May. In Afghanistan the election of a new president is the most important political problem facing the nation just ahead of the June 2014 withdrawal of the bulk of the U.S. and European forces from a decade-long shoring up of a democratically elected incumbent Mohammad Karzai. Pakistan’s freshly-elected civilian regime under two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seems to be out to cut to size its own brand of the religious Right amidst clashes between the two and sartorial conflicts within Islam. Bangladesh has just gone through a painful election in which the religious fundamentalist Right, with active participation of the opposition BNP party of former prime minister Begum Khalida Zia, sought to boycott and disrupt the political process. However, the public gave the ruling Awami League under current prime minister Begum Hasina full support for its five-year efforts to return the country to a secular, liberal regime. Nepal has installed a new government of Nepali Congress after the elections two months back revealed a sharp fall in the popularity of the Communist Party faction that had led an armed insurrection against the royal regime.

Myanmar is all set to end the military-dominated oppressive regime and elect a new president in 2015. The current strong man and president, Thein Sein, has gradually loosened the authoritarian army-controlled rule under intense pressure and threat of sanctions from Western democracies and the U.N. The key question in the presidential contest scheduled for 2015 is whether the …

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