As is the long-standing pattern in the ASEAN region, politics in some of its member countries are rambunctious and unpredictable while in others, nobody is expecting any significant change. This picture emerges in the ten country reports on politics.
In the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is fending off calls to impeach her. In Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, having won an impressive election victory in early 2005, is fast losing his hallmark lustre as an effective leader by the end of the year because of his failure to come to grips with the violent religious/ethnic problems in the country's deep south. Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, one year into his term, gets a mixed report card, which is perhaps what any Indonesian president can realistically expect given the complexities of the country's problems. That is to say this President is not doing too badly. The new prime ministers of Malaysia and Singapore, two places where politics are rather more placid, are busy reinventing their respective country. Nobody expects the unexpected here. The even quieter sultanate of Brunei is actually experimenting with some rather bold political initiatives. These are exciting times for the country; however, very few seem to be curious about the Bruneians.
Among the new ASEAN members, Vietnam is having its Communist Party Congress in 2006 and so is Laos. But the opacity of their politics perhaps hides no more than intra-elite squabbles over how to share power and the perks that come with power. Despite pundits pointing to reformists versus conservatives rifts, the leaders of these countries probably enjoy a stronger consensus than given credit for. That consensus is for the country and themselves to get rich quick.
Given this mindset, development-friendly policies and politics are safely guaranteed for quite a while in these places. Cambodia continues to muddle through and the military regime in Myanmar remains in its political bunker while sorting out how to retain power, give some space to the opposition, and get round international pressure.