While populism is sweeping through Europe and parts of the Americas it is also making gains in Southeast Asia. The region’s autocrat-leaning populists—those who have already ruled and those who are attempting to win power—use similar strategies: positioning themselves as outsiders who can solve problems where elites have failed, offering brutal approaches to crime, targeting vulnerable groups within societies, and ultimately undermining democracy.
Two of the region’s six biggest economies—the Philippines and Thailand—already have had autocratic-leaning populist leaders, and a third, Indonesia, could be run by a populist after presidential elections next year. The emergence of autocratic-leaning populism could further erode democracy and stability in a region that had, until the past decade, been growing freer. For more on how populism is expanding in Southeast Asia, and how Southeast Asian populism differs from its better-known peers in Europe and North America, see my new CFR Explainer.