From the birth of nations to the present day, diverse political activity and rampant corruption makes regional politics a motley beast
By Jemma Galvin and Joana Maria Tacken
Southeast Asia is a vast and complex region, comprising countries with remarkably diverse histories and cultures. Against the backdrop of rapid economic development and social transformation in several countries, some nations have adopted democratic institutions, while others have maintained stable authoritarian systems or accepted communist regimes.
Indonesians will this month decide on their new leader as they take to the polls on July 9. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and the world’s fourth most-populous nation, the archipelago’s progress from here will undoubtedly shape regional trade and international relations, while the current uncertainty has pushed Indonesian stocks and the value of the rupiah down.
Over in Thailand and May 22 saw the 13th military coup d’etat since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, take place. It followed six months of political crisis in the country and has resulted in martial law and a steep decline in tourist numbers and their spending dollars. With so much political tension in the country, it is interesting to note that Thailand’s percentage of those who turn out to vote is the lowest is the region – just 66.92% of registered voters.
Ever present in these games of political upheaval is the issue of corruption. Transparency International’s (TI) 2013 Corruption Perception Index showed that Cambodia is now seen as the most corrupt country in the region, ranking at number 160 of 175 countries included in the report. It scored just 20 points out of a possible 100 – two points lower than the previous year. TI’s Asia Pacific Youth: Integrity in Crisis report released earlier this year showed that one in five people surveyed said it is acceptable to lie and cheat to get rich, while 72% said theyw ould engage in a corrupt act for personal gain. The problem is deeply entrenched in many of the region’s countries, a notable exception being Singapore.
So as Southeast Asia becomes ever more important to the rest of the world, such as China and the US, individual governments and Asean alike have a huge task on their hands if they are to provide growth and stability for its citizens.
“The charm and the mettle” – Daughter to a recently sentenced father; leader to an ethnic Malay community; mother to a son and daughter. Nurul Izzah Anwar has the lineage to rival some of the world’s most prominent political families and for many embodies the battle for genuine democracy in Malaysia