The Rise of Populism in Asia


The Rise of Populism in Asia

Need to strengthen democratic institutions’ resilience

M. Sheraz

The populist wave that has swept the world during the recent years has shaken up global politics, sending many establishment-politicians heads spinning. Much of the focus of this surge has been in the western hemisphere, with the rise of Trump, recently Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and most recently Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, along with bubbling populism across Europe. But Asia is far from immune. A recent study titled “Populists in Power Around the World” from the Institute for Global Change found 40 percent of Asia’s population is governed by populists. A startling figure until you realise the continent is home to two of the top three most populous democracies in the world ruled by populists: Narendra Modi in India, and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in Indonesia.  Add to that the Philippines under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, and it accounts for over 1.7 billion people.

The wave of modern populism has dramatically shaken the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) during the last few years. The year 2016 was an annus horribilis and heralded a new reality of post-truth politics. It included Brexit, the refugee crisis, the fear of Islamist terrorism with numerous and continuing attacks, the rise of right- wing populist parties and, more generally, authoritarian developments on a global scale. This rise of populism has been the subject of countless discussions, and for good reason: populists’ misguided policies often have severely adverse political and economic consequences. Now, those risks are coming to Asia.

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