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

Pakistan says Asia Bibi’s rights will be respected

Imran Khan on Tuesday reaffirmed his government’s resolve to respect the Supreme Court’s judgement in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman recently freed from prison after her blasphemy conviction was overturned. “As citizens of Pakistan, Asia Bibi and her family are entitled to all rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan,” the premier told European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who had telephoned Khan. According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Tajani thanked Khan for ensuring the safety and security of Bibi and her family. Assuring the prime minister of the EU Parliament’s cooperation with the Pakistani government, Tajani said that a debate on Bibi scheduled to be held in the EU Parliament had been postponed. Bibi has been blocked from leaving Pakistan after the overturning of her conviction prompted a wave of


By Dawn
November 14, 2018

Analysis, Politics

Malaysia Cabinet agrees to scrap death penalty

If approved by lawmakers, capital punishment will be replaced with minimum 30 years in jail. Malaysia’s de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong told Parliament yesterday that the Cabinet has agreed to scrap the death penalty, including for murder, but Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail appeared to hedge over the matter by telling reporters that the government would review abolishing it for murder. “We are reviewing it. The death penalty is one of those that we will review,” she said when asked if the government would keep the death penalty for child murders. But when The Straits Times contacted Datuk Liew again, he insisted that “all 32 death penalty offences found in eight of our laws” would be abolished.


By The Straits Times
November 14, 2018

Analysis, Politics

India watchful amid developments in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s political crisis has a regional power closely watching developments. The return of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa to power in Sri Lanka amid political turmoil has triggered concern in India, with analysts warning it could lead to a deterioration of ties with the island nation to its south-east and increase the influence of China, already making serious inroads into South Asia. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 26 and named his one-time rival as his replacement. The move plunged the country into political turmoil and a constitution


By The Straits Times
November 14, 2018

Analysis, Politics

President Xi emphasizes role of Hong Kong, Macau

Both Hong Kong and Macao were told to integrate with nation’s overall development. President Xi Jinping underlined on Monday the unique and irreplaceable role of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for China’s reform and opening-up in the new era. He also called on the two regions to better integrate themselves with the nation’s overall development. Xi’s remarks came as he met with a delegation of about 210 representatives from the two SARs who were in Beijing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. The position and role of Hong Kong and Macao will only be strengthened rather than weakened, Xi said. The two regions should continue to play a leading role and enable more capital, technology and talent to take part in the country’s high-quality development and in the new round of high-level opening-up, he said. People of the two regions should continu


By China Daily
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report


By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation


By Daily Star
November 13, 2018