Your Monday briefing: Thailand votes for change

Usman Deen

Global Courant 2023-05-15 02:29:35

Thai voters support change

Thai voters overwhelmingly sought to end nearly a decade of military rule by voting in favor of two opposition parties that have pledged to curtail the power of two powerful conservative institutions: the military and the monarchy.

With 97 percent of the vote counted as of early this morning, the progressive Move Forward Party was neck and neck with the populist Pheu Thai Party. Move Forward had won 151 seats against Pheu Thai’s 141 in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

“We can view this election as a referendum on traditional centers of power in Thai politics,” said Napon Jatusripitak, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. “People want change, not just a change of government. They want structural reforms.”

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What is also clear is that the results are a humiliating blow to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a 2014 coup.

Moving forward: the party has focused on compulsory military service and is trying to amend a law that criminalizes criticism of the royal family. It has made astounding progress, capturing young urban voters and voters in the capital, Bangkok.

Pheu Thai: The party was founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is still fondly remembered as a champion for the poor after his ouster in a 2006 coup amid allegations of corruption. According to polls, Thaksin’s daughter was the top choice for prime minister.

What follows: Because both Pheu Thai and Move Forward do not have enough seats to form a majority, they will have to negotiate with other parties to form a coalition. But under the rules of the Thai system, established by the military after the coup, the junta would still play kingmaker. A decision on who will lead can take weeks or even months.

Turkey’s crucial election

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced the biggest political challenge in his 20 years in power as Turkish voters went to the polls yesterday. The outcome could reform Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies.

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The results are still coming in, but the state-run news agency reported that initial results showed Erdogan ahead. Opposition leaders rejected those numbers, and Erdogan’s biggest challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, wrote on Twitter: “We are leading.”

If no candidate wins a majority, the two front runners will go to a second round on May 28. Follow our live coverage.

Background: The vote was in many ways a referendum on Erdogan’s two decades as Turkey’s dominant politician. He faced an extremely tight race, largely due to anger over the state of the economy, which has suffered painful inflation since 2018.

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The vote also came three months after earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey, raising the question of whether Erdogan’s emphasis on construction has produced unsafe buildings.

Electoral integrity: Turkey is neither a full-fledged democracy nor a full-fledged autocracy, and Erdogan has tilted the political playing field in his favor over the past two decades.

The war in Ukraine: a defeat for Erdogan would be a blessing for the West and a loss for Russia. Erdogan has increased trade with Moscow, pursued closer ties with President Vladimir Putin and hindered NATO expansion.

Cyclone Mocha makes landfall

A storm expected to be the strongest to hit Myanmar in more than a decade made landfall near the Bangladesh border yesterday. The storm, Cyclone Mocha, has claimed the lives of at least six people, but initial reports suggest it has so far not led to the humanitarian catastrophe authorities feared.

The cyclone-affected area in western Myanmar is home to some of the world’s poorest people. The storm passed through Cox’s Bazar, a city in Bangladesh that is home to the world’s largest refugee camp, though officials said they had not yet received reports of damage there.

The World Food Program said yes preparation for a large-scale emergency response. But some officials expressed cautious hope that the region could be spared the worst possible damage from the storm as it weakened over land.


Asia Pacific

Many Asian-American women are named after Connie Chung, an accomplished American television journalist. The writer Connie Wang investigated the phenomenon, which she calls ‘Generation Connie’.

“We all have our own stories of how our families came to the United States and why they chose the name they did,” she wrote. “But we’re also part of a bigger story: about the patterns formed by specific immigration policies and the ripple effects a woman on TV created by just being there and doing her job.”

Witch hunt in India

For centuries in India, the branding of witches was largely driven by superstition. A crop would fail, a well would run dry, or a family member would fall ill, and villagers would find someone—almost always a woman—to blame for an accident they couldn’t understand the cause of.

Many Indian states have passed laws to ban witch-hunting, but the practice persists in some states. According to government data, more than 1,500 people have been killed between 2010 and 2021 following witchcraft accusations.

One state has tried to stop the practice by deploying “witch-hunt prevention teams,” which hold street games to raise awareness. But enforcement of anti-witch-hunting laws can be weak, and entrenched beliefs are hard to change, activists say.


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Your Monday briefing: Thailand votes for change

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