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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2024

Thi Ha Hoang
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
Daljit Singh
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
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Summary

In 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic that had plagued Southeast Asia and the world at large for the previous two years finally receded. But hopes for a strong rebound from the pandemic were soon overshadowed by new uncertainties and upheavals in domestic and international politics as well as structural economic shifts that have been accelerated by the pandemic. There were also significant economic and geopolitical disruptions brought on by Russia's war against Ukraine, while the rising tensions between the United States and China across multiple domains have contributed to a more fraught security environment—testing the region's resilience to avoid being drawn into a conflict between the major powers.

Elections in Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste brought back familiar names and faces into power. Anwar Ibrahim finally laid claim to the Malaysian premiership that had for so long eluded his grasp. In Manila, another Marcos once again occupies the Malacañang Palace—this time it is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the scion of the eponymous dictator who was deposed by the People Power Revolution almost four decades ago. In Timor-Leste, the one-time president José Ramos-Horta was elected back into the same office with the support of the country's founding father and revolutionary hero José Xanana Gusmão.

Meanwhile, the prospects of impending elections in Thailand and Indonesia have prompted considerable political jostling and tussling. The electoral systems in both countries feature byzantine rules for qualification and complex balloting processes so politicians and parties have to manoeuvre early to ensure they remain ahead of their rivals. Cambodia will also hold legislative polls in 2023, but the political situation appears relatively secure for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The CPP intends to use the election as an opportunity for leadership succession, with prime minister Hun Sen grooming his son to eventually take over. There was some flux in Laos and Vietnam, especially towards the end of 2022.

On the last day of the year, Lao prime minister Phankham Viphavanh tendered his surprise resignation—ostensibly for health reasons—though the general view was that his failure to effectively steward the pandemic-battered economy meant that he had to go.

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Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2023

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