Bhargav Reddy – APAC Assistance Operations Assistant
Major Issues In EAST ASIA PACIFIC
TUESDAY, 26 March 2019
Parties start negotiations to form a coalition. Two political parties have started negotiations to form a coalition government in Thailand. The two parties are the Pheu Thai Party, which is linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party. The Pheu Thai Party won the highest number of parliamentary seats, while the Palang Pracharat Party garnered the most number of votes. The Pheu Thai Party captured 135 seats, but it won only the second biggest number of votes, 7.4 million (21% of votes), after the Election Commission’s unofficial 94% vote count. The Palang Pracharat won only 97 seats, the second biggest, but it won the popular vote, with 7.9 million votes (22.2%). The Pheu Thai Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Sudarat has demanded that the party with most seats should be given the first shot at forming a coalition government. There is a possibility that the liberal anti-military parties including the Future Forward Party will join the Pheu Thai Party to form a coalition, the parties combined have 215 seats in the lower house. Smaller parties in this scenario will play a crucial role, including the Bhumjaithai Party which has 51 seats.
It is unclear which of the two parties will be the first to form a governing coalition. A party or coalition of parties needs 251 seats to have a majority in parliament and secure the right to nominate the prime minister. If the parties fail to form a majority coalition, the 250-member Senate will come in to elect the prime minister together with the 500-member Lower House. Such a scenario will make Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha retain leadership of Thailand. While Prayut is may remain as the country’s premier, the country faces the likelihood of an unstable government. Irrespective of which party leads a coalition government, the opposition will have enough support to frustrate the government’s legislative efforts.
Farmers support Widodo. The Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), acclaimed as the biggest farmers’ group in the country, declared its support for President Joko Widodo in the April 17 presidential election. Widodo welcomed hundreds of HKTI representatives at the State Palace in Jakarta yesterday. The farmers’ backing of Widodo came a few days after some 10,000 businesspeople declared their support for the president and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin in Istora Senayan, Central Jakarta on March 21. The president is expected to win re-election despite a recent survey by Kompas showing his lead over Prabowo Subianto has been cut to 11.2%. Other earlier polls show Widodo winning by as much as 20%.
Suspected terrorist arrested. Indonesian police arrested a militant allegedly belonging to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah in North Lampung on March 22. Police said that the suspect, identified only as K, was on the police’ most-wanted list and had undergone military training in Lampung. K was the 10th suspected JAD terrorist to be arrested this month. Continued arrests of suspected terrorists highlight pro-active efforts and preparedness against the Islamist terror groups. The arrests though also point to the possibility that there are some terrorists in the country waiting to launch their attacks.
Military meets with the political parties. The Myanmar military has clashed with the Arakan Army in more than 100 different encounters in the Rakhine State since the militants attacked police outposts in early January. Three military leaders made this disclosure in a press conference yesterday. The military said that the military’s recent clashes with the Arakan Army, including the shooting of alleged civilians in Mrauk-U township, were counter-insurgency measures. Earlier the Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told 32 political parties in Naypyitaw that the military was exercising restraint and patience in order to avoid instability in Myanmar. The meeting was organized by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. The fighting in the Rakhine state is likely to intensify with the military justifying its reported shooting of civilians. Clients are advised to avoid the Rakhine state and its neighboring states as fighting between the military and ethnic rebels continues.
Mahathir disappointed with a coalition MP. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad voiced his disappointment with the recent remarks of Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar about the Pakatan Harapan government. Nurul Izzah, Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, told a Singaporean media that she was “brokenhearted” having to once again work with Mahathir. She said she would be serving her final term as a lawmaker due to her disappointment with the government’s slow reform efforts. Nurul Izzah could be unhappy with Mahathir’s leadership because the opposition, the United Malays National Organization party, has gained some grounds following its victory in two recent by-elections with the backing of Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). It is also unclear whether Mahathir will be transferring the leadership of the country to Anwar. Mahathir’s party is pressuring him to keep the premiership until the next general election and Mahathir is yet to announce a definite plan on leaving the premiership.