The political news surrounding the ASEAN Nations are quite troubling. All the four major democratic countries of ASEAN, namely: Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia – are embroiled in a flux state of politics. Everywhere it seems that there are two opposing camps trying to wrestle the power from the other. All under the “new democracy” of ASEAN which has taken place since the last financial crisis of 1997/98.
It is a real test of democracy, and which country that will come out shining is still a lingering question that is hard to answer. Philippines was the one that underwent the turmoil earliest – and until today it is still under gridlock, whereby there are no clear winner, even though Arroyo remains as the President. What she has is a weak government that are mired in compromise with the military and coalitions that are fragile, coupled with a very weak economy and continous insurgencies.
Indonesia, while a bit better, in terms of the chance of democracy to work, still has a long way to go.The recent election of its Parliament, resulted in a spread that will test whether which coalitions will work. Nobody is a real winner, neither a real loser. Hence compromise becomes the main order of the day.
Thailand on the other hand, saw the fight between the Yellow (under Abishit) and the Reds (followers of Thaksin) fighting each other to the level of shooting and riots. However, the silver lining it seems comes more from the Yellows, which in my opionion has been handled pretty well by the well mannered and spoken PM. However, the challenge for them is quite tough as both sides are equally strong.
When comes to Malaysia, the transition seems to be prolonged for another three to four years, till the next General Election – which will show true colors of the future. In any case, the fact remains that there will be no true winner neither a total loser. Coalitions and groupings will determine which way the power will go. This is something that is yet to be seen.
In all cases above, one thing that is visibly missing: THE ECONOMY. All these countries, in light of the current Global economic crisis, are in fact in a dire state. All these political instabilities adds further to the economic predicament.If the price that we ASEANS have to pay for democracy (that is to suffer economically more, by prioritizing democratic process); we better have the right results, rather than suffering on both scores.
Therefore, it is pertinent that while all the politicking (as a part of democratic process, going on), all parties should be clear that they should not compromise with the ideals of democracy and governance. That is to uphold the rule of law, fairness, and justice (regardless of who is in power). Abuse of power and the laws are the exact opposite of the process itself. In this regards, I have my admiration for Thailand and Indonesia. Both Abishit and SBY, are quite clear in their statements and actions – regardless of how hard it is – promised and practiced restraints and seems not to compromise with the agenda of change and reforms for the benefit of the people.
Malaysia on the other hand seems to regress more and more by the day; as the people in power are protecting their turfs and seems to be withdrawn deeper into undemocratic process.
It is rather sad, if Thailand and Indonesia can come out better than Malaysia; as both countries are more populous and complex in terms of their social arrangements and structure – compared to a more educated and better equiped Malaysians. If any, the attitude of those in power should be blamed first.