Southeast Asia’s Political Leaders: Populists, Demagogues or Something Else?
CRISEA Policy Brief
Paris : Competing Regional Integrations in Southeast Asia
CRISEA Policy Brief : 4
Southeast Asia, populism
Populism is characterized in the scientific literature as a thin ideology, a strategy, a political style or a combination of all three, pertinent to all political practice. Insights drawn from the observation of this global phenomenon are useful for EU policymakers to decipher political leadership in Southeast Asia. They provide a grid for evaluating Southeast Asian political leaders and exploring differences between their rhetoric and their practice. A further unpackaging of populism situates and draws out contradictions both in the rhetoric and practice of political leaders. Nevertheless, a concern with individual political leaders must be brought into focus with an understanding of political structures and regime types. These three analytical grids placed in an overlay, allow for an analysis that can help generate policy responses. Populism studies have become a sub-discipline in the areas of comparative politics and comparative sociology. Yet a great deal of this literature looks at the demand side, in particular populations while perhaps not giving sufficient attention to the supply side of those political leaders who create and encourage the populist demand. With its diversity of political cultures, regime types and types of leadership, Southeast Asia provides a rich terrain for such study and a challenge to policy makers.