Southeast Asia: goodbye democracy, make way for autocracy

Southeast Asia has long been the showcase for all variants of authoritarianism, from communist dictatorship (Vietnam, Laos) to capitalist dictatorship (Cambodia) to military dictatorship (Burma), absolute monarchy (Brunei), one-party rule (Singapore) and clientelist democracy (Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines).

Yet over the past decade the region has held out hope that democracy has finally taken root. In a remarkable series of elections that began in 2014 voters demanded change and, surprisingly, appeared to get it. That year, the Indonesians chose as president Joko Widodo, whom they baptized Jokowi. This political outsider, coming neither from a military family nor from the elite, seemed to embody the spirit of reform which, fifteen years earlier, had ended a period of dictatorships.


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