‘Hand of God’ makes votes disappear – Asian Media Report

Feb 17, 2024
Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan. 11th Feb, 2024. Supporters of Imran Khan's PTI party protest against alleged rigging in general elections.PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN, FEBRUARY, 11: Supporters of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party block Peshawar to Islamabad highway as they protest against the alleged skewing in Pakistan's national election results, in Peshawar on February 11, 2024. Pakistan police warned on February 11 they would come down hard on illegal gatherings after the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan urged supporters to protest against alleged rigging in last week's election. Image: Alamy?ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

In Asian media this week: Imran Khan the ‘winner’ in Pakistan elections. Plus: Prabowo to adopt ‘Indonesia First’ foreign policy; China’s BYD overtaking Tesla; West really thinks it’s a jungle out there; Thai activists arrested for disrupting royal convoy; PLA not able to invade Taiwan; the land where pet strollers outnumber baby buggies.

The phrase “hand of God’ usually recalls a football World Cup goal scored by the late Diego Maradonna. In Pakistan, it has a political meaning – votes that mysteriously disappear in the hours before sunrise…

Commentator Zahid Hussain said voters turned out in record numbers in last week’s national elections. “It was a vote for hope and democracy,” he wrote in his column in Dawn newspaper. “The anti-establishment sentiment was quite palpable.”

In Punjab, the most populous province and a stronghold of imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan, initial results showed a rout of parties backed by the military. Yet the final tally showed candidates who had lagged behind those affiliated with Khan and his party were suddenly declared winners the next morning.

Khan’s party had benefited from the “hand of God” in the 2018 elections, he said. “But what happened this time has hardly any precedent…The people’s mandate seems to have been stolen yet again.”

An opinion piece in India’s The Hindu newspaper declared that Khan, in prison for more than a year, had won the election, even though neither he nor his party, the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) could contest the polls and the party logo, a cricket bat, was banned. His supporters stood as independents.

The article, written by S. Akbar Zaidi, head of a business unversity in Karachi, said the “Establishment” – the military and those who did its bidding – had devised a different scenario. The plan was to ensure victory for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz. It came badly undone.

At the time he wrote, Imran Khan’s independents won 92 seats in the 266-member National Assembly. Sharif’s party won 78 and the Pakistan People’s Party got 56.

Zahid Hussain pointed out in his Dawn column that Khan’s PTI could not get its share of 70 seats reserved for women and religious minorities, as it was not recognised as a parliamentary party. “Hence the party cannot achieve even a simple majority to form a government,” he said.

Al Jazeera reported this week that a six-party coalition, led by Sharif and controlling more than 150 seats, seemed poised to form government.

And Dawn said leaders of the two biggest parties – PML(N) and PPP – were thrashing out the division of key positions between the parties in the coalition.

Green tech dominance gives China a strong voice on climate change

Could anyone feel sorry for Tesla founder Elon Musk? He is no longer the world’s richest person; a judge has struck down as “unfathomable” his 2018 salary of $55.8 billion; and now his company is losing the race to keep its title of the world’s biggest seller of electric vehicles – to China’s BYD.

The Chinese company overtook Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023, selling 536,000 units, 51,000 more than Tesla. BYD’s year-on-year growth was 70 per cent while Tesla’s was less than 40 per cent.

This means 2023 is likely to be Tesla’s last as the top seller of EVs, according to Peter S. Kim, a director of Seoul’s KB financial and banking services group.

BYD’s strategy echoed that adopted by Hyundai and Kia Motor in the US during the global financial crisis, he wrote in The Korea Times. The Korean companies offered deep discounts and free options with quality improvements that had not been widely appreciated – and rapidly doubled their market share.

China’s strategy was to attack existing industries with fierce price competition, backed by government support, while relentlessly improving quality.

“If the EV industry joins other sectors China has overwhelmed, like LCD screens, shipbuilding, chemicals and steel, Tesla’s place as one of the legendary ‘Magnificent Seven’ stocks will come under threat,” Kim said.

But China’s EV industry has broader implications for climate policy, British author and journalist Martin Jacques has written.

“China is by far the biggest producer of green tech, notably EVs and renewable energy, namely solar photovoltaics and wind energy,” he wrote in Global Times, one of China’s official newspapers.

“Increasingly, China will be able to export these at steadily reducing prices to the rest of the world.”

Jacques, a visiting professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said green tech was one angle of China’s climate story. The other was its installation of renewable energy. Last year, renewables reached 50 per cent of China’s total energy capacity.

“It looks as if China’s voice on global warming will carry an authority that no other nation will be able to compete with,” he said.

Gaza shows West’s outpost can kill with impunity

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell once declared that Europe was a garden and the rest of the world was a jungle.

Hong Kong commentator Andrew Sheng says the beating of war drums at the borders of the West and the Rest draws a line between Western civilisation and the perceived barbarism of the Rest.

“It also shows the West’s emphasis on science and rationality as a cover for its raw emotions over its identity and power insecurities,” he says.

Writing in the South China Morning Post, Sheng, a former central banker, says nowhere is this more evident than in the Ukraine and Gaza wars.

He says: “The West explains both conflicts in terms of standing on principle – the enemy struck the first blow and is therefore the bully – ignoring history and context.

“The Ukraine conflict basically pushed Russia out of the Western garden, just as the Gaza conflict revealed that Israel, as a Western outpost, can commit what much of the world sees as genocide on Palestinians with impunity…

“The West is protecting its garden, exercising its right to eliminate the weeds and fight to keep out the jungle. The trouble with this argument is whether the garden can exist independent of the jungle when both are on the same planet.

“And there are those in the jungle who feel they are more civilised than those in the garden.”

In The Hindu newspaper, Krishnan Srinivasan, a former Indian foreign secretary, says the US shaped the rules-based international system, although in practice it was neither centred on rules nor entirely global.

“It was a power-based system established by the US and its allies,” he says…

“In parts of Asia and Africa, western liberalism is often interpreted at worst as a smokescreen for neo-imperialism, and at best as an insensitive expression of American and European arrogance.”

Students face prison for honking car horn

Two Thai student activists have been detained and charged with inciting sedition, after allegedly disrupting a royal motorcade, including honking their car’s horn at the convoy.

The Criminal Court this week approved a police request to detain Tantawan Tuatulanon, 22, and Natthanon Chaimahabud, 23. The court denied bail.

Bangkok Post reported that Natthanon was driving a car on an expressway on February 4, and Tantawan was his passenger.

The car was stopped to allow a motorcade of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to pass unhindered.

Natthanon honked his car’s horn repeatedly, and tried to pass a police car, the paper said. Tantawan argued with a police officer when their car was stopped.

Police can detain suspects for up to seven 12-day periods, when charges must be laid or the suspects released.

In an earlier story, the paper said sedition carried a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

The paper said that after the incident, Tantawan and members of her protest group, called Thalu Wang (“shattering the monarchy”), went to a city Skytrain station to conduct a survey asking if royal motorcades caused inconvenience.

They were confronted by a group calling itself Thai People Protecting the Monarchy.

A violent brawl erupted, the paper said.

Taiwan’s Lai cannot declare independence

Those who believe, or who want people to believe, that China will try to wrest control of Taiwan by force have various timeframes in mind – from this year, while the US is distracted by its presidential election, through to 2049, the 100th anniversary of Communist Party rule in China.

But some observers put practical considerations ahead of political calculations. One is J. Michael Dahm, a retired US Navy Intelligence officer. He has been studying China’s use of civilian ships to boost the PLA Navy’s capacity to invade Taiwan.
Dahm wrote in the latest China Maritime Report, published on the US Naval College website, that China had made progress in integrating civilian vessels with military exercise but would not have sufficient amphibious logistics support for an invasion before 2030, at the earliest.

South China Morning Post said in a report of Dahm’s views that China had started using “deck cargo” ships to tackle shortcomings in transporting troops and equipment in large-scale operations,

It quoted from his report: “If current trends in training and exercises continue, the PLA may be able to effectively leverage civil maritime shipping on a large enough scale to support a major amphibious operation by the mid-1930s.”

One spark that some think could ignite a war would be a move towards Taiwan’s independence by the newly elected president, Lai Ching-te. He leads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

But China observer Frank Ching has pointed out that the DPP lost its parliamentary majority in last month’s elections.

“Lai won 40% of the vote in a three-way race,” Ching wrote in The Japan Times. “This means that a majority, 60%, did not vote for the DPP candidate.”

Ching said Taiwan would have a minority government for the first time in 16 years when Lai was sworn in on May 20.“Without control of the legislature, Lai cannot make constiitutional changes … in the next four years,” he wrote.

Year of the Dragon means more Chinese babies

South Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world – 0.78 births per woman. And the number of households with children is less than the number with pets.

Only 23 per cent of South Korean households have children, while 30 per cent have pets.

Columnist Grace Kao, writing in The Korea Herald, says sales of pet strollers are outpacing those of baby strollers.

“There are growing numbers of apartments designed for single adults and their furry companions,” says Kao, a Yale University sociology professor. “[But] it would be a stretch to think that pets are somehow the cause of the declining numbers of births and children in South Korea.

“There are myriad reasons why women and men are rejecting marriage and childbearing.

“One thought experiment might be this: If pet ownership were somehow outlawed in South Korea, would people suddenly have more babies? I doubt it.”

China has a higher fertility rate than South Korea but at 1.7 births per woman it is still below the replacement rate of 2.1.

China, however, is expecting a minor baby boom this year – the Year of the Dragon, Global Times reports. It says the Year of the Dragon produces high expectations of new life and new arrivals among Chinese people.

The paper quotes the president of the China Population Association, Zhai Zhenwu, as saying there was a baby boom in 2012, the previous Year of the Dragon.

But there are two other factors, Global Times says – a rebound in births following the COVID pandemic and official fertility support policies.

population fell by 2.08 million last year, to 1.41 billion people.

Prabowo to adopt ‘Indonesia First’ foreign policy

All in the family. Indonesian President Joko (“Jokowi”) Widodo met the winner of Indonesia’s national elections, Prabowo Subianto straight after the poll and congratulated him.

Also in the meeting was Prabowo’s vice-presidential running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Widodo’s son.

The Jakarta Post said unofficial quick counts immediately after Wednesday’s election gave the pair 60 per cent of the vote, making a run-off election unlikely. To win in a single round of voting, a candidate needs a simple majority of 50 per cent plus at least 20 per cent of the vote in half of the country’s provinces.

Singapore’s The Straits Times said Prabowo owed much of his success to Widodo, who could expect a handsome political reward.

The paper quoted academic Made Supriatma as saying Widodo and his family could ask for big concession, including a prominent economic role for Gibran in overseeing Jakarta and a number of key ministries for Widodo loyalists.

The paper published an analysis by Johannes Nugroho, an Indonesia journalist, saying Prabowo could be expected to adopt a more vocal and assertive foreign policy.

Nugroho said that in a recent speech Prabowo gave a sign of his “Indonesia First” approach. “I strongly object to seeing my people cheated out of their dues by foreign nations,” Prabowo said. “I truly object.”

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