Can North Korea abduction issue progress improve Abe’s approval rating?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, 9 December 2013. The approval rating for the Abe cabinet has fallen 10 points to 47 per cent, according to a poll released 9 December by the Kyodo News agency. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takao Toshikawa, Oriental Economist Report

Public backlash to the Abe government’s cabinet decision to recognise the right to collective self-defence, as well as the decision to restart nuclear power, has seen the cabinet’s approval rating to drop below 50 per cent. According to one Democratic Party of Japan Diet member, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) loss at the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial election in early July ‘turns the November Okinawa gubernatorial election into a decisive battle. If the LDP candidate loses, the politics of “Abe always wins” will be at an end’. Read more…

Thai coup’s short-term gains mask long-term pains

Head of the Thai military junta, army chief and now prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha adjusts his cap during a military ceremony at the 21st Infantry Regiment in Chonburi province, Thailand, 21 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Pavida Pananond, Thammasat University

In the aftermath of Thailand’s 22 May military coup, business and politics appear to have converged. Domestic and foreign businesses of all stripes heaved a collective sigh of relief when the military seized power, halting six months of debilitating and intractable anti-government street protests. But despite initial post-coup business optimism, and the impression that commerce is booming, Thailand’s latest putsch may bring long-term pain. Read more…

Cambodia breaks political deadlock, at last

Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, registers before a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 8 August 2014. Lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party attended the meeting of the National Assembly for the first time, ending their ten month boycott of parliament over claims that results of the July 2013 general election were rigged. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Vannarith Chheang, CICP

After a year of political deadlock the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have agreed to settle their differences. The CNRP, established in July 2012 by merging the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, challenged the predominant role of the ruling CPP in the July 2013 election. On 22 July, both parties reached a historical agreement and on 8 August, 55 CNRP members of parliament took their seats at the National Assembly to bring to an end a year-long boycott over alleged CPP vote-rigging. Read more…

Thailand’s interim constitution: paving the way for a return to authoritarianism?

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai pays his respects in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a royal command ceremony to swear him in as president of the army-appointed National Legislative Assembly at Parliament in Bangkok, 18 August 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sarah Bishop, ANU

Thailand, for the 19th time in 82 years, has a new written constitution. The King promulgated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim) B.E 2557 (2014) on 22 July 2014, finally bringing an end to the nation’s fourth longest period since 1932 without a written constitution. However, although there are some small gains, there are very few positive signs for democracy or rule of law. Read more…

Modi’s operandi: a few steps forward but where’s India’s budget going?

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime minister Narendra Modi flashes the victory sign as he arrives at a public rally after his victory in Vadodara on 16 May 2014. The triumphant Hindu nationalists declared a new era after hardline leader Narendra Modi propelled them to the biggest win in 30 years on promises to revitalise the economy. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ashima Goyal, IGIDR

The election win of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi earlier this year brought hopes of an economic revival for the country. Yet, while the new government’s first budget, handed down in early July, aims for higher growth, employment, better amenities, infrastructure and governance, how the new budget measures are expected to achieve these aims is unclear. There is some alignment between the overall strategy and the rhetoric, but the various measures are not integrated well enough to tell a coherent story, and the changes announced are not quantitatively significant. Read more…

Cementing the BRICS together

The heads of BRICS member states pose for a picture during the 6th BRICS summit in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, 15 July 2014. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states discuss political coordination issues and global governance problems. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Garima Sahdev and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Brazil for his first major international summit, the sixth annual BRICS summit. Before his departure, the leader put forward his vision that the vitality of the BRICS group would cut across the geographical and ideological divides of not only the five countries of the group but also of the global economy. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s military exit the political stage?

Myanmar lawmakers and senior military officials attend a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Myanmar's slain Independence hero and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar Saturday, 19 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax, Canada

Over three million Burmese have signed a petition by Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urging immediate constitutional revision. A significant cause for protest has been the political powers afforded to the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, by the constitution.

Although the petition demonstrates the direction in which many want the country to go, such actions are unlikely to force the generals’ hand. Read more…

An immovable object and an unstoppable force: the Uyghurs and Beijing

Armed police patrol an area where blasts occurred in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on 22 May 2014. The blasts killed 31 people and injured 94 others, according to local authorities. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region is experiencing, yet again, deep unrest and unease. News headlines have been dominated by violent clashes between Chinese police and some sections of the Uyghur population — recently a police building in Xinjiang province was bombed and 13 Uyghur activists shot dead in the aftermath. To comprehend the persistent tensions between the Chinese administration, managed by the dominant Han ethnic group, and Uyghur Muslims, one must consider historical tensions and both the strategic and economic significance of Xinjiang. Read more…

Japan and the art of un-apologising

A regular rally of former so-called comfort women call for an apology from Japan in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 22 January 2014. Japan forcibly took tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, to battlefields to provide sexual services for the Japanese army during World War II. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

The Japanese government has long had difficulties coming up with effective apologies for the wartime misdeeds of the country’s military. For decades, while many ordinary Japanese grassroots groups worked tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past, the silence from the corridors of power in Tokyo was deafening. Read more…

Why Abe is out of touch on the comfort women controversies

Felicidad Delos Reyes, 85, a former Filipino comfort woman, one of many women forced to serve for the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, joins a protest outside the Japanese embassy in Pasay city, the Philippines, 25 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mikyoung Kim, Hiroshima Peace Institute

Ever since Shinzo Abe’s second stint as prime minister began in December 2012, his administration has been forging a worrisome trajectory for Japan’s foreign policy. Abe was re-elected because the Japanese people considered him a strong leader who would revive Japan’s ageing society and energise its declining economy. And Abe has initiated a series of bold policies regarding the economy, national defence and foreign affairs. But his motives and strategies raise concerns about maintaining peace and stability in East Asia. Read more…

The unintended legacy of Manmohan Singh

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends a press conference on the Germany-India summit 11 April 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Suhas Palshikar, University of Pune

Manmohan Singh is the only prime minister of India to have completed two full and consecutive terms since Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first elected prime minister in 1952 and remained in office until his death in 1964. Singh, however, was not a politician until he was appointed finance minister by Narasimha Rao in 1991 — he had always distinguished himself primarily as an economist. His departure in May 2014 was marked by a stunning defeat of both his party and government. Read more…

Foreign concepts in Indonesia’s third presidential debate

Indonesian presidential candidates, Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Prabowo Subianto, and their running mates, Jusuf Kalla and Hatta Rajasa, pose for a photo with the Chair of General Election Commission (KPU), Husni Kamil Manik. The Indonesian presidential election will be held on 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yohanes Sulaiman, Indonesian National Defense University

Indonesia’s third presidential debate on foreign policy, held on 22 June, presents both good and bad news for observers of Indonesia’s upcoming election. The good news is that neither candidate rocked the boat. They committed to maintaining the status quo, saying they would continue current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s policy of a ‘thousand friends and zero enemies’. Read more…

China’s growing reach in South Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  shake hands during a meeting in New Delhi on June 9, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Samam Kelegama, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

China’s economic reach in the South Asian region has grown considerably since the late 1990s, while that of India has lagged behind. In 2012, India’s trade with its South Asian neighbours — those in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — amounted to US$17 billion, compared to China’s trade with the same countries which amounted to US$25 billion. China is currently the largest trading partner of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka and Nepal. Read more…

Jokowi, democracy winners in Indonesia’s tightening presidential race

Prabowo Subianto greets and smiles to Joko Widodo shortly after the second presidential debate in Jakarta, Indonesia, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

There has been a growing sense that Indonesia’s presidential elections on 9 July will be much closer than initially thought and that hard man Prabowo Subianto could be a real contender for office. If Prabowo is successful, his presidency would be expected to fundamentally re-shape the orientation of Indonesia’s post-Suharto era. Read more…