Emerging Trends in Southeast Asian Politics: Deeper Democratic Backsliding or Trickles of Emancipation?


Round Table


Session 12
Thu 16:00-17:30 REC A2.14


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In recent years, scholars of Southeast Asia have analysed and debated the trend toward democratic backsliding, against the backdrop of a region that has been comparatively weak historically in its democratic credentials. Over the last year, the region has seen a number of significant events and electoral benchmarks across several key countries. This roundtable takes stock of these events to discuss to what extent they are indicators of further backsliding or whether they indicate some resistance, or perhaps even slight reversals, from deepening authoritarianism. In particular, the roundtable will assess the results of the 2024 Indonesian legislative and presidential election, and whether a new parliament and executive promise new directions and a move away from recent repressive tendencies. It will also evaluate the first year of the Marcos presidency, which has largely been expected to continue or even deepen backsliding trends of the Duterte administration. Thailand has held its first fully free and fair election since the latest coup and relatively long stint under military rule. How fragile will the new parliament and government be? Does Thailand set an example for Myanmar’s military government to proceed with its promises of an election? The roundtable will discuss the evolution of military rule in Myanmar, its planned election, and the fate of the opposition. Finally, a new direction was set in Malaysia with the appointment of Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, and a historical decimation of the Barisan Nasional coalition in the 2022 elections, then its surprising recovery. The roundtable will discuss the state of the fragile coalition led by Anwar, and whether we are seeing represents a more pluralized and decisive democratizing trend or a step toward illiberal reconsolidation. The roundtable will wrap up with what these events and benchmarks mean overall for the region’s politics.