Elections in India

In advance of the Delhi legislative elections that took place on 8 February 2020, Lakshmi discussed the rise of the centre position in Indian politics. He argued that Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, had advanced soft-nationalism as an ideology—in contrast to the revolutionary left and religious right that emerged since the election of Modi as Prime Minister in 2014. Lakshmi then summarised the “ingredients” of Kejriwal’s political stance as: “not saying anything to alienate the majority community, embracing religious symbols, not speaking against the military and not joining the left’s revolution”.

The author compared the political climate in India to that of the United States. He argued that viewing politics through the lens of social media could distort actual affiliations, often amplifying support for candidates that does not transfer to the ballot box. To illustrate this, he gave the examples of Bernie Sanders in the US in 2016 and of Kanhaiya Kumar in India in 2019. Both candidates—who identified with the radical left of their parties—garnered huge social media followings prior to their respective elections, but neither was elected.

The article ends by questioning whether a centre-ground stance is politically viable in an era of stark polarisation in both India and the US. Lakshmi argued that whilst the left and right have their distinct base of voters, the centrists “typically have a wide but shallow base”. He believes this does not translate well in the current climate. Ultimately, the author stated that someone will have to fill the “centrist space” previously occupied by the Congress Party in India, and argued that the outcome of the Delhi elections will indicate if voters agree. The BBC reported on 11 February that Kerjiwal’s party, the AAP, was set to win 63 out of the 70 seats in the legislature and that Kerjiwal would continue as Chief Minister.

Elections in Singapore

Elections in Singapore are expected to take place this year, although no date has currently been set.

Zuraidah Ibrahim discusses what she expects to see happen in an upcoming vote. First, Ibrahim states that “the opposition is not a government in waiting”, but instead a tool that voters can use to provide a check on the government—the People’s Action Party (PAP). She argues that the election would give voters the opportunity to indicate how much power they want the ruling party to have; for example, she notes that if the PAP is returned with less than two-thirds of the total vote, it will not be able to make constitutional changes unilaterally. The article then discusses the formation of the opposition parties, believing this will preclude the parties forming a coalition. Specifically considering the ideology of the opposition, Ibrahim states “it is unclear whether the opposition’s best bet is to position itself as a radical alternative to the ruling party, or a sort of PAP lite”. However, Ibrahim does expect the opposition to benefit from “the underdog advantage”, that is, voters will be more likely to identify with candidates who appear as “victims of an overbearing government”.

Turning to some “unknowns” of the election, the author lists three questions to be considered: how the PAP and the opposition will use the internet to garner votes; whether Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP politician who has been recruited by an opposition party, will attract more votes or even more “establishment” candidates to stand in opposition to the government; and finally, how external factors such as geopolitical tensions or economic changes may influence voters.

Putin’s Future

Chris Miller discusses the potential future of Russia after President Vladimir Putin’s term in office comes to an end in 2024. He also reacts to the possible establishment of a new State Council, which is likely to be run by Putin after he has left office. Using examples of other leaders from Russian history, such as Paul I or Alexander II (who were both killed by their political rivals), Miller warns against leaders staying on longer than necessary. The article also asks whether Putin’s continued leadership in Russia would be beneficial to the country. The author argues that, unlike in Singapore and China, when retired leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Deng Xiaoping continued to have roles in their governments to preserve their respective legacies, the Russian people are looking for change away from Putin’s rule. To illustrate this, Miller outlines potential tensions between ordinary Russian citizens and the Russian ‘elite’; he states that citizens want a “fairer political system” and better living standards, while the elites are concerned this would “threaten their status”.

The author then considers why Putin would not change the constitution to allow him to stay president for life. Miller states that Putin himself has remarked that those leaders, such as Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko, who stayed in power until their death were successful only in putting “Russia on the road to stagnation” by delaying necessary reforms. However, despite the president’s apparent reluctance to make this constitutional change, Miller states that the creation of a State Council with Putin at the top will leave Russians “in no doubt about who is ultimately in charge”.