Welcome to the monthly political compass of Southeast Asia from The Journal Radar! Our quarterly political compass aims to give our readers a quick quarterly summary and a better understanding of hot political events across Southeast Asian nations.
This third quarter political compass will summarize the event from July, August, and September of 2023.
WHAT TO WATCH?
The Elections Department (ELD) recently revealed that Ng Kok Song (former Chief Investment Officer of GIC), Tan Kin Lian (former Chief Executive of NTUC Income), and Tharman Shanmugaratnam (former Senior Minister), have successfully met the qualifications to become candidates in Singapore’s upcoming Presidential Election. The current President, Halimah Yacob, who is the country’s first female president, has decided not to seek re-election. Her term is set to conclude on September 13th.
It’s important to mention that eligibility criteria for presidential candidates underwent stricter regulations in 2017.
Requiring candidates to either hold a senior civil service position or have previously served as the CEO of a company with a minimum paid-up capital of S$500 million ($371 million).
Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been pardoned from 5 of her 19 charges brought against her by the military. The pardon, part of a seasonal amnesty, will reduce her jail sentence by 6 years from 33-year jail from early prosecution. Former president Win Myint, who was ousted along with Suu Kyi, also received a reduced jail sentence after getting two of his charges pardoned.
On the other hand, Myanmar’s military junta has officially postponed elections promised to take place in August this year.
The decision comes as junta leader Min Aung Hlaing announced to extend the state of emergency by six months.
The Philippines’ boats were attacked by the Chinese Coast Guard when delivering supplies to the Second Thomas Shoal. The Philippines stated that it would not deter the country’s resolve despite China ‘s increased presence at Second Thomas Shoal.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, an assertion rejected internationally and by the countries across Southeast Asia.
Due to China’s action, the Philippines is pivoting with the U.S and accused China of threatening regional peace and stability.
Since March, Thailand has been under a caretaker administration and parliament has been deadlocked for weeks over the formation of the next government. The Move Forward Party won 151 seats in May’s election. Move Forward was the surprise winner of the May election, riding on the back of huge youth and urban support for a liberal policy platform. But the win received some resistances.
Under the military-enacted constitution, confirming a new prime minister requires a majority vote in both the elected House and the 250-member Senate, which was appointed by a previous military government.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s populist Pheu Thai Party, the runner-up in May’s elections, announced it is forming an alliance with the conservative Bhumjaithai Party and is open to other parties joining to form a government.
Malaysian Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, engaged in a conversation with billionaire Elon Musk in mid-July 2023 regarding Tesla’s potential investment in Malaysia and SpaceX’s satellite communication services.
In addition to this, Malaysia is proactively introducing the Strategic Investor Pass (SIP), allowing investors to access Malaysia on a multiple-entry basis.
This initiative, Prime Minister Anwar emphasized, will enable strategic investors identified by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) to have a minimum five-year stay in the country, with the possibility of extending it for an additional five years. This move aims to encourage and facilitate long-term investment in Malaysia.
In mid-July 2023, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo initiated his eighth Cabinet reshuffle. Unlike previous reshuffles, where he typically selected individuals to maintain harmony within his grand coalition.
Jokowi has taken a different approach this time. He has chosen non-party affiliated figures, a move that many observers interpret as a strategy to advance his own political agenda independently of his allies.
Budi Arie Setiadi was appointed to the role of Minister of Communication and Informatics, replacing Johnny G. Plate. While Nezar Patria, formerly an expert staff member at the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry, became the deputy minister. Additionally, several other people have also been appointed to fill important political positions in the government.
These newly appointed Cabinet members seem to have close ties to Jokowi‘s inner circle, underscoring the President’s efforts to consolidate his political position by bringing in influential members from his long-standing volunteer groups.
By: Putu Radar Bahurekso