May 2, 2019

If not Modi, who?

If not Modi, who? To his supporters, the strongman is irreplaceable. The question has been repeated so often that it’s become a catchphrase to rebuke the opposition. Still, the quasi-presidential nature of the campaign reinforces its importance: Who could challenge Modi’s immense charisma and huge following?
April 26, 2019

Grassroots, a village fund and the Javanese identity

Muhammad Rofiqul A’la is a jovial and portly thirty-nine year old farmer and kyai (or ustaz) from Jember in the densely populated province of East Java. Kiyai Rofiq as he’s called in his village is also part of the reason that Joko Widodo (or Jokowi) was able to surprise Indonesians and the world, in last week’s Presidential elections.
April 16, 2019

‘What’s in it for me?’

The Indian elections are a five-week-long marathon. The first stage of the exhausting process has already begun and voting has started. The question “what’s in it for me”, is not as easily answerable now for everyday Indians as it was in the shock-and-awe publicity campaign of Modi in 2014, as the Modi magic that was promised in 2014 is something that seems to have all but evaporated.
April 11, 2019

Thailand needs to use more than a calculator to fix its democracy

Chiang Mai is swathed in smog. It’s opaque, oppressive, and disconcerting. There’s no horizon. The air is yellowish and way, way above acceptable health levels: the result of forest fires and local slash-and-burn agriculture crashing head-to-head with El Niño, the global weather phenomenon. But the sickly air quality – earlier in the year Bangkok was similarly shrouded in pollution – only serves to match the obfuscation and uncertainty surrounding Thailand’s first contested elections in over 8 years.