TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Southeast Asia faces an important year in 2018, with the 2019 Indonesian presidential election and the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons looming in the background, the Central News Agency reported Friday.
The year could be chaotic in the region due to the rise of populism and the backpedalling on democracy and human rights, writes Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations on the blog Asia Unbound.
The crisis over the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, Singapore’s hosting of the annual Association of South East Asian Nations summit, and Washington’s toughening attitude toward North Korea and China will all have an impact on Southeast Asia, with uncertainty hanging over multilateral trade agreements.
Malaysia faces general elections to be held in August at the latest, but despite corruption scandals, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has formed a strong coalition which could allow him to continue in power, Kurlantzick writes.
In Thailand, the military-led government could organize legislative elections in December to conclude four years in power.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has conducted the harshest repression of opponents since 1990, so elections in July will be anything but free and fair, but it remains to be seen how public reaction will be and how he will respond to eventual protests, according to Kurlantzick.
While Indonesia’ s next presidential elections won’t take place until April 2019, contenders will have to surface during the coming year. Incumbent President Joko Widodo is still the favorite to win a second term, but his likely opponents, a former general and the governor of the capital Jakarta, might stage mass rallies which could turn into protests, the Southeast Asia specialist concludes.