AS the year 2018 drew to a close, we have witnessed quite a few elections that sent shockwaves in the region.
In Malaysia, for example, the new Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) pact led by Dr Mahathir Mohamed unseated the Barisan National under Prime Minister Najib Razak on May 9, overturning a coalition that has ruled for over 60 years.
Over in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed a landslide victory in ‘sham’ election after silencing main opposition. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in July announced the victory that rights groups said was neither free or fair.
This year, we will see anticipating more national polls that are tipped to have a lasting impact in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Since seizing power from a democratically elected government under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai military has delayed the polls on numerous occasions but a bill approved by the country’s monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, in mid-2018 called for the widely-anticipated election to be held before May 2019.
While political parties are ramping up efforts ahead of the polls, critics say the military-drafted constitution would prolong the influence military influence on the nation’s politics. Current Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan Ocha had expressed his interest in running for the elections prompting speculation that he is vying to become prime minister again.
Indonesia’s presidential race kicked off in Septempber with both President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and former general Prabowo Subianto fighting for the ballots of 187.1 million eligible voters ahead of polling day next April.
The two began their seven-month-long campaigns this weekend to shore up votes in an unprecedented election for the republic which for the first time has nearly half of the total voters aged 35-years-old or younger.
The upcoming election will also be the first time that voters will be choosing the president and members of parliament on the same day.
Since 1998, Indonesia has practised an electoral system that prevents a single party from holding power following the downfall of dictator Suharto in 1998.
Jokowi and his Islamic cleric running mate Ma’ruf Amin is backed by the nine-party Golkar coalition led by the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), while Prabowo and Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno is contesting under The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).
Ma’ruf’s selection comes at a time when the Muslim-majority country is experiencing the decline of its pluralistic brand of Islam and the rise of religious fundamentalism promulgated by influential far-right groups.
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Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison looked to shore up support recently teasing AUS$9 billion worth of tax cuts as he faces a rout in the May general election.
According to the AFP, his conservative coalition is ten points back in the polls and facing a thumping loss to centre-left Labor.
A mid-year budget released Monday showed the government running a smaller deficit than expected and possible surplus next year. That amounts to a much-needed AUS$9.25 billion (US$6.7 billion) election war chest for Morrison, the AFP reported.
Australia’s economy has been growing steadily for decades, but has started to slow amid trade disputes between China and the United States and domestic pressures.
An election date has not yet been set, but it is widely expected by May next year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will run for a second term in office in the national polls due to be held before May 2019.
However, the results in key state elections held earlier this saw his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) concede defeat in what is said to be the dry run for the national polls.
The results from the elctions this month and in November showed the BJP losing power in the central state of Chhattisgarh and in Rajasthan in the west.
The chief ministers from both states, both from Modi’s BJP, conceded defeat, while in Madhya Pradesh the outcome was on a knife-edge, according to the ADP.
They form part of the “Hindi Belt” or “Cow Belt” region of around 475 million people — more than the United States, Canada and Mexico combined — where the right-wing BJP has its core support base.
His likely challenger will be Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, whose position was bolstered by Tuesday’s results.