See More on Facebook

Analysis, Politics

Elections in Asia are not a cure-all, panel says

Elections being held across Asia this year and next will not be a panacea to the region’s ills, a panel of experts concluded.


Written by

Updated: March 19, 2018

With elections due in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia and Pakistan this year and Thailand and Indonesia next year, many are looking to polls for an indication on the direction of the region.

However, an expert panel hosted by Asia News Network in Bangkok agreed that elections were unlikely to fix the region’s ills. In fact, elections would likely continue the trend towards populism and authoritarianism that the region was facing.

“The people who are in power do not take elections as a measure of popularity but being in power is about deceiving and manipulating public opinion,” said Mahfuz Anam, editor-in-chief of The Daily Star.

Every country, Bangladesh included, is using state machinery – bureaucracy, intelligence, police and the judiciary – to manipulate the public will.

According to Kingsley Abbot, a senior legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurist, the current direction points to further human and civil rights abuses. Abbot pointed to the deteriorating rule-of-law and attacks on freedom of expression and the press as clear indications on the direction of countries across the region.

Social Media and Disinformation

At the same conference, the audience also heard panelist worry about the rise of social media as the go-to source for information and news.

Panelists say that with the rise of smartphones and internet access in Asia, information has never been more accessible…and easier to manipulate.

Marketing blogger Nuttaputch Wongreanthong and Thai Democrat Party MP Kiat Sittheeamorn worried about third-party sources and political parties using fake news to defame and manipulate the public will.

“Social media platforms have a very crucial function in providing information, interaction and mobilizing activities. They have become more powerful for spreading messages and shaping public agendas,” Kiat said.

“Still, the challenge remains with fake news. It’s a job that we have to commit to, to ensure fair competition among all political players.”

Eddy Bayuni, the Jakarta Post’s senior editor, said Indonesia, as Southeast Asia’s biggest country, was another large social media hub, and that victories and losses in elections there had been determined by social media in many cases.

Indonesia had its share of fake news and hoaxes, which had been intentionally produced for political purposes, Bayuni said.

But while all the panelists agree that fake-news and disinformation were and are serious problems, there was a unanimous agreement that passing legislation to fight it was not in the best interest of the public.

All agreed that passing laws specifically for digital and social media was a slippery slope, such laws could be enforced selectively or used to stifle freedom of expression.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Politics

Beijing slams unrest and backs HK govt’s use of lawful means to tackle it

Protests have shut down Hong Kong for the past several days before a government crackdown. Beijing yesterday condemned the unrest that broke out in Hong Kong over the city’s extradition Bill as an organised riot, and said it supported the local government’s use of lawful means to resolve the situation. Asked if the central government supported the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong was against any act that undermines the city’s prosperity and stability. “Any civilised and lawful society will not tolerate the destruction of peace and tranquillity,” he said. “The Chinese central government strongly condemns all types of violence and supports the Hong Kong government to handle the matter according to the law.” Chinese state media


By The Straits Times
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Taiwan expresses support, solidarity with Hong Kong

Taiwan advocacy groups call for retaliation against Hong Kong extradition bill. Dozens of civic groups in Taiwan called on the government on June 11 to adopt concrete regulations in response to Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill, suggesting tighter controls on investments from Hong Kong and visits by its civil servants, for example. In a statement issued ahead of the expected second reading of the bill Wednesday, the groups urged the Taiwan government to submit a countermeasure proposal to the Legislative Yuan during its extraordinary session on June 17. The Taiwan government should also issue a statement, asking the Hong Kong government to halt its review of the bill, which could put the personal freedom of Taiwanese nationals at risk, as it would allow the Hong Kong government to send suspects to China for trial, the groups said. Despite fierce opposition by an est


By ANN Members
June 13, 2019

Analysis, Politics

China blames ‘lawlessness’ for Hong Kong

Lawlessness undermining rule of law in Hong Kong, says China Daily editorial. The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has explained many times the proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s fugitive law are meant to better protect Hong Kong society by plugging the loopholes in the existing laws in order to enhance the rule of law. Rather than pushing through a bill against the wishes of Hong Kong society as some have tried to portray, the government has made changes to the proposed bill more than once in response to concerns expressed in the community. As a result, most of the members of Legislative Council of the special administrative region, who are accountable to their voters, now support the amendments. Nor is it a hasty or unnecessary move. Indeed the need for an extradition agreement with the mainland was acknowledged by government officials and legal experts ahead of H


By China Daily
June 13, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Hong Kong protests turn violent

At least 72 people taken to hospital during clashes with police. At least 72 people were injured and taken to hospital during clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday (June 12) over a contentious extradition Bill, said Hong Kong authorities. By night time, police officers were still in a stand-off with protesters on Queensway, not far from Admiralty Station, even though most of the protestors had dispersed following the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Earlier, police fired rubber bullets at protesters after they declared a “riot” as – for the second time in days – clashes broke out between police and protesters demonstrating against the controversial extradition Bill.


By The Straits Times
June 13, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Nepal Prime Minister’s speech in UK is filled with irony

Nepal’s prime minister celebrated democratic freedoms in his UK speech but it contradicts what he’s doing at home. While Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Monday speech at the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom valorised the importance of freedoms, rights and democracy, back home, his government has been criticised for what many see as an authoritarian turn, stifling freedom of speech and steadily encroaching on human rights. In his speech at the Oxford Union, Oli said that as someone who had spent over five decades fighting for democratic rights, and as a result, been imprisoned for 14 years, including four years in solitary confinement, he knew “how important access to education and freedom of speech are for people and society to grow, deve


By The Kathmandu Post
June 12, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Abe to visit Iran to mediate with U.S.

The Japanese Prime Minister is due in Tehran today. The government is making arrangements for Abe to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. Abe will encourage the United States and Iran to hold direct dialogue, aiming to mediate the increasing tensions between two countries over their nuclear agreement. It will be the first visit to Iran by an incumbent prime minister in 41 years, since former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda visited the country in 1978, and the first since the Islamic revolution of 1979. According to government sources, the government is considering having Abe meet with Rouhani on Wendesday and with Khamenei on Thursday. Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Teheran on Wednesday before Abe’s arrival and meet with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.


By The Japan News
June 12, 2019