Four Asian elections to watch out for this year

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1. Indonesia

When: February 15, 2017


Indonesia has emerged as a model for democracy in the region, but its transition has not been without setbacks. The country continues to be saddled with issues of corruption and sectarian violence. Despite daunting challenges, the Asian nation has succeeded in its strides to create a constitutional court and a credible electoral commission.

The 2014 general elections recorded a significant step for Indonesia, but the current administration faces challenges in sustaining the country’s achievements in developmental efforts. Indonesia’s capital city, officially known as the Special Capital Region of Jakarta swings into gubernatorial elections set in February. The election will be held to elect a governor to a five-year term. Incumbent governor , Basuki Purnama and his deputy will face fierce opposition as they contest to be elected for a second term.

Jakarta is a whirlwind of political activity, where political misfortunes are made and broken. Historically, the gubernatorial elections in Jakarta have become a regional affair with national significance.

The elections in Jakarta is certainly one that involves high stakes for Indonesia as a whole. Short of allowing the Jakarta elections to be sabotaged by politicking and disruptive elements hostile to inclusionary forms of politics, the proceedings and results of the upcoming election will be closely watched by the rest of the continent.

2. Timor-Leste

When: March 2017

Timor-Leste, located in Southeast Asia–recognized as a sovereign state by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will hold strategically important elections, which will be observed carefully and serve as an indication of their influence in the Southeast Asian region.

Previously one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world, the government introduced reform with effective outcomes which led to a pipeline of foreign direct investment emerging from across the world.

In today’s world, where many countries struggle to mobilize their citizens to go to the polls, Timorese do not take their democratic rights for granted. Voter turnout during elections is always high.

Voting is not compulsory in Timor-Leste, but voter registration is. The electoral system is guided by proportional representation, a President is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a 5-year term.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the president and the National Parliament of 65 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms.

3. Iran:

When: May 19, 2017

Presidential candidate Hassan Rohani casts his ballot during the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Yalda Moayeri

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will face a very tough 2017, which will be dominated by the presidential elections. He was expected to be riding high on the flood of an economic upturn following the nuclear deal with America and lifted sanctions. Instead, he faces a resurgent conservative opposition.

Rouhani staked his political future on the economic benefits that would come to the people from getting the nuclear deal, but this dream was destroyed by the lack of cooperation from the international banking regime, and the election of Donald Trump, who reiterated he would abandon the deal.

It is unclear who anti-Rouhani conservatives will field as presidential candidate in the elections, as these things are sorted after the Guardian Council vets and approves all candidates.

President Rouhani will have a tough fight on his hands this election season, his chances of winning is uncertain given the poor impact of the controversial deal with Washington.

4. Thailand

When: July 2017

Thai military staged its second coup d’etat in eight years in May 2014, establishing a junta, which set out a “roadmap for democracy,” promising a new constitution and new elections by 2017.

However, the underlying issues that surrounded the previous coup, which removed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, and the turmoil that followed, remain to be addressed.

The subsequent election of Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister in 2011 brought a short-lived period of calm that ended in late 2013 when the Thai Party-led administration attempted to push through an amnesty bill in parliament. The legislation would have excused Thaksin from corruption charges and allowed him to return from exile. This development resulted in mass demonstrations in Bangkok to oust the government.

The 2017 election will be significant in Thailand’s political landscape as the expectation will be to restore civilian rule following the 2014 coup, and will be the first under a new constitution.

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