Consequences of Covid and Climate Change: Elections of Asia

By Isabella Green

When attempting to foretell what lies ahead in the new year, we must consider the leaders guiding the path forward for their countries. Changes in leadership mark changes in the goals of not just politicians but also the people they serve. Many elections took place across Asia in 2021, and the effects of these leadership changes will continue into the new year.

Mongolia’s election saw low voter turnout and a large margin of victory. Additionally, the recent creation of a one-term limit  on the presidency prevented the former incumbent from running for office. The new president, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, resigned from his position as prime minister at the beginning of last year. As prime minister, Khurelsukh led Mongolia’s COVID-19 response; the negative response led to his resignation. In his position as prime minister and his position as president, Khurelsukh has promoted the agenda of the Mongolian People’s Party, which now controls both the executive and legislative branches of government. One of the party’s goals is to move away from dependence on trade with China  to create an economy that focuses on Mongolia’s long-term growth. 

Myanmar’s change in leadership came in the form of a coup d’etat in response to their 2020 election. The military arrested many elected officials, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She was removed along with other government officials and has since been charged with election fraud, among other accusations. There have been protests  in response to the supplanting of democratically elected officials and the military’s poor response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Myanmar. The military will continue to act as the provisional authority until they allow new elections to be held, likely not until 2023. The coup will cast a long shadow over all future elections. Many are concerned that an alarming precedent could be set allowing the military to remove democratically elected officials if they do not find the results of an election favorable. While it remains unclear how Myanmar will be affected in the long term, there is much cause for concern over the future of democracy in the country.

Japan has seen three people assume the prime minister’s office in the same number of years, all from the Liberal Democratic Party. The current Prime Minister is Fumio Kishida, preceded by Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. Kishida was Abe’s foreign minister before the former prime minister’s resignation. Former Prime Minister Suga also resigned, though his was related to backlash over his handling of a COVID spike coinciding with the Tokyo Olympics. Kishida has discussed moving away from the ‘Abenomics’ of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; his economic policy focused on reinvigorating the economy and increasing spending through favorable lending policies. Prime Minister Kishida has stated plans to make changes, including raising capital gains tax. Kishida also attended COP26 and will likely continue efforts towards carbon neutrality in Japan, although his overall climate strategy is unlikely to veer far from his predecessors. As Suga’s handling of COVID contributed to his resignation, Kishida must maintain a strong and effective stance. His strategy includes maintaining a closed border and increasing the vaccination rate. The latter task may prove difficult especially considering the factors discussed in a previous St Andrews Economist article about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Philippines will have its presidential elections in 2022. One of the frontrunners is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose father was a former dictator of the Philippines in the ’70s and ’80s. Sara Duterte, the current president’s daughter, is running as his vice-president. Both are the children of prominent figures in Philippine politics. They enter the race with a substantial amount of name recognition and prominence. However, one of their opponents is current Vice-President Leni Robredo, who represents a more progressive future for the Philippines and is a well-known figure in Philippine politics. The race is far from secure for any candidate, even Marcos. Voters who are old enough to remember life under the dictatorship of Marcos Sr. are less inclined to vote for Marcos Jr., especially considering his campaign relies on people forgetting the harsher aspects of his father’s regime. 

These leaders, along with the ones elected in 2022, will be tasked with managing the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuous struggle against climate change. Even in cases when new leadership does not mean a change in the governing party, we can still expect changes in the goals and ideals of a nation. With the upcoming elections, we will be able to see a vision for the new year, even if that vision is not always a reflection of the will of the people.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the opinions of The St Andrews Economist.

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