Afghanistan Elections: Why Should We Care?

Memo #284

By Dur-e-Aden – dur-e-aden [at]

This week Afghans headed to the polls to help usher in a transfer of power from one democratic government to the next. While some observers hail this as a major achievement, others worry what lingering issues of rampant Taliban violence, ethnic politics, widespread corruption and fraud during the… Continue reading

Political Parties and Islam in Indonesia: A Religious Façade

Memo # 178 – Portrayals of Indonesian political parties have classified them as either secular or Islamic. This implies that they hold strong core commitments. But Indonesian parties do not espouse a coherent political program during elections. Islamic and secular-nationalist parties alike appeal to the public with populist slogans. Controversial religious issues, such as the role of Sharia law or the status of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect – which could differentiate parties along clear secular-religious lines – are ignored on the campaign trail. Contrary to mainstream analysis, religion plays a minimal role in Indonesia’s party competition. Continue reading

Why Technology Needs People: Gold, Phones, and Bicycles

Memo # 177 – “We treated our precinct captains like gold,” wrote David Plouffe, an architect of President Obama’s 2008 US election campaign. “The challenge” lay in “marrying digital technology and strategy with a strong grassroots campaign.”

Plouffe’s insights had been anticipated a year earlier in an election in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, where a party led by a Dalit (former untouchable) woman won unexpectedly. And the story about the centrality of technology and people came full circle early in 2012 when Uttar Pradesh voted to throw out the incumbent government. Continue reading

Mongolian Election: Bumpy Road, but Heading in the Right Direction

Memo #161 – Elections are milestones in democratic development. With the closing of nominations on June 6, 2012, the campaign for the Mongolian parliamentary election officially opens. Observers seem pessimistic about Asia’s only post-socialist democracy. But the upcoming election promises to be more carefully organized and transparent, and public discussions of corruption will strengthen democracy. Continue reading

Singapore’s Divisive Seventh Presidential Election

Memo #101 – Singapore’s recent presidential election (PE) was unusual as it was a highly politicized contest for an apolitical post. Unlike the previous two uncontested PE, this PE saw four candidates vying to be the country’s largely ceremonial, highly paid head of state. While three presidential hopefuls were former People’s Action Party (PAP) members, one was an opposition candidate in the general election (GE) held four months ago. On August 27, 2011, the government favoured candidate, former Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Tony Tan was elected the seventh president by a razor thin margin. Continue reading

Thailand Post-election Analysis: Crisis and Opportunity

Memo #97 – The highest voter turnout in history shows Thai voters still view elections as the most legitimate way to transfer power. 75 per cent of eligible voters participated in last week’s election. Pheu Thai took 40 per cent of the vote, gained 265 out of 500 seats, and together with five other parties will form a 300-seat coalition government – an impressive result for a party whose predecessors were ousted by a coup d’état in 2006, twice dissolved, and had their politicians banned from politics for five years. Continue reading

Turn of Tide: Singapore’s Watershed Election 2011

Memo #82 – On May 7, 2011, 2.06 million Singaporeans cast their votes and returned the People’s Action Party (PAP) to power. Most parties would be happy with the PAP’s 60.1 per cent vote and 81 out of 87 seats. But the result was the party’s worst performance since 1963, a far cry from its 75 per cent vote share during its heydays in the 2001 general election (see Figure 1). Singaporeans were disaffected and voted two cabinet ministers and a candidate slated to be speaker of the House out of office. In an election post-mortem, both minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew and senior minister Goh Chok Tong resigned from the cabinet. Continue reading

Pre-Election Singapore Clamps Down on Social Media

Memo #58 – Social media including Facebook and microblogging sites such as Twitter galvanized the street protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Fears of contagion have led China to censor ‘Egypt’ on its microblogging sites. As Singapore gears up for its general election, due by February 2012, its long-serving People’s Action Party (PAP) government is increasingly nervous over the impact of social media and is finding ways to muzzle it. Continue reading