China’s aspiring global leadership

US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping look at each other during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing during APEC, 12 November 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

This geopolitical summit season has consolidated ongoing trends in international affairs. A still-rising China with global leadership aspirations, a resurgent Russia bent on restoring its superpower status, and sclerosis and dysfunction in Western countries is likely to dominate international politics for at least the next 20 years. In fact, we might only be at the beginning in this long time span where seismic global power shifts are taking place. Read more…

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

A Thai soldier is silhouetted against the sky as he guards GOvernment House during the first cabinet meeting of the military junta chief and newly-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak

Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials. Read more…

Jokowi saves Indonesia’s democracy (and maybe Southeast Asia’s too)

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana show their ballots before giving their vote during the presidential election. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Many years from now, the electoral victory of Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi) may be seen as pivotal to the fate of democracy and regionalism in Southeast Asia. A win by Jokowi’s opponent Prabowo Subianto would have been a retrograde step for Indonesia, promising shades of authoritarianism even with a popular mandate. Jokowi’s victory, on the other hand, bodes well not just for Indonesia’s future but also for the region’s democratic prospects and ASEAN’s forward momentum. Read more…

Elections the worst outcome in Thailand, except for all the others

Thai anti-government protesters face off with Airforce military as they storm a meeting venue between the government and Election Commission in Bangkok on 15 May 2014. Thailand's Election Commission called for the postponement of key parliamentary polls due to be held on 20 July because of political unrest. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

As its political environment remains murky in the wake of the Constitutional Court’s ouster of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand now stands at a dire crossroads with deepening rifts and growing risks of more turmoil and mayhem. In the near term, Thailand will either have a problematic election that will be fraught with controversy or it will end up with an appointed government of questionable contrivance. Along the way, the military’s role in Thai politics is likely to widen as violence becomes more deadly, frequent and uncontrollable. Read more…

No luck for Yingluck as Thai elections nullified

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra casts her ballot in the senate elections at a polling station in Bangkok on 30 March 2014. The NACC has charged Yingluck with malfeasance over her government’s rice-pledging scheme and the senate has the authority to impeach Yingluck. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

The recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify the 2 February elections has put the country on a collision course between those who advocate electoral democracy, even at the cost of corruption, and others who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority. Read more…

Give Thailand’s democracy a chance

An election official reads a ballot during a vote counting after the general election in Bangkok on 2 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand went ahead with the polls on 2 February despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party and blockades by anti-government protestors. Unsurprisingly, the election failed to resolve the political deadlock. Yet despite the as-yet incomplete and inconclusive poll results, electoral democracy ironically works in Thailand. Read more…

A People’s coup by Thailand’s minority

A Thai opposition protester holds up a placard showing protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban hitting prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally at the Interior Ministry in Bangkok on 1 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Never has Thai politics degenerated so quickly from uneasy accommodation to outright insurrection in just a month.

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