Asian Insider May 21: A good week for incumbents in Asia

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


It's official. Finally. More than a month after Indonesia staged the largest single-day election in the world, we have the official results. Incumbent President Joko Widodo has beaten challenger Prabowo Subianto by 11 percentage points - more than doubling his winning margin from 2014. The announcement, coming in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday in Indonesia, had little surprises. Pollsters had unanimously projected Jokowi would prevail with a bigger winning margin shortly after votes were cast.

The numbers: At an election with a surprisingly high 80 per cent voter turnout, Jokowi and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin received over 85,607,362 votes, 16.9 m more than Prabowo and running mate Sandiaga Uno's tally of 68,650, 239. The Jokowi ticket won 21 out of the 24 provinces.

A sense deja vu: When these same two candidates contested the last election in 2014 with similar (if less emphatic) outcomes, Prabowo rejected the official results and challenged them in Constitutional Court. He has said, since just after the pollsters projected a Jokowi victory, that he intends to do so again. He has three days to do so with a result than expected by the end of June. He has also already called for protests in the streets against what he said was serious electoral fraud. The Courts rejected his case in 2014, and few expect a different result this time. The challenge will, however, prolong the tensions in Jakarta.

Jokowi moves to unite the country: While a lot of the circumstances are similar to 2014, Jokowi is playing his cards differently. Despite the unanimous projections from the quick count results, he never declared victory. And today, he continued with his conciliatory tone, saying he wanted to keep "brotherly ties with Pak Prabowo, with Pak Sandiaga Uno, and all their supporters".

Go deeper into the Indonesia elections with the latest reports and analysis from our correspondents at our special website.

Latest reports:

Indonesia's President Jokowi re-elected with 55.5 per cent of votes: Elections commission (Indonesia Bureau Chief Francis Chan)

What's next for Prabowo Subianto? (Indonesia Correspondent Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh)

Prabowo rejects election result, will challenge it in Constitutional Court (Indonesia Correspondent Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja)


No one, including Australian PM Scott Morrison himself, expected that after the Australian elections over the weekend that he would somehow still be prime minister. A betting house even started paying out bets on a Labour Party victory two days before the election. Yet today, with counting continuing, Morrison's ruling Liberal-national Coalition is poised to win an outright majority in Parliament.

How did the miracle happen? As with most shocking election results, the answer comes down to a whole bunch of things going right for the Coalition and a bunch of things to go wrong for Labour. Coalition picked the right side on the controversial coal mine in Queensland, backing that jobs it created were more important to voters than environmental concerns.It also ran a more focused campaign than Labour and benefited inadvertently from the multi-million dollar anti-Labour advertising blitz launched by mining tycoon Clive Palmer for his United Australia party. Labour agenda - which included raising taxes to fund social programmes - was also successfully painted as radical.

Read the whole analysis here: Coalition's miracle win in Australia elections due to focused campaign


Incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks set to return to power this week with a clear majority. Results will only be announced on Thursday but at least five exit polls have already shown the ruling alliance winning between 286 and 240 of the 542 up for grabs. Exit polls in India have been wrong in the past but it is a sign that Modi is in a good position.

Why it matters: If the results are confirmed on Thursday, it would be a testament to the lasting popularity of PM Modi. He came to power in a landslide five years ago with voters upset by a Congress administration plagued by corruption scandals. It would also be a sign that BJP's strategy of pinning its campaign on national security following a face-off with Pakistan paid off.

Read the full report: Modi tipped to return to power as India elections end


Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said today that her administration will push through an extradition Bill despite the fierce opposition and concerns that it could allow for more Chinese intervention in Hong Kong. The Bill would allow ad hoc extradition requests to countries and territories with no existing extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

Why it matters: Opposition to this Bill has been particularly vociferous and there have been mass protests on the streets and brawls in the legislative council. Hong Kong, which was promised a high degree of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, sees the Bill as one that paves the way for significant interference by allowing those arrested in Hong Kong to be sent to China. Taiwan has said the law would put at risk any Taiwanese passing through the city.

The full story: Hong Kong leader presses on with extradition Bill undeterred by critics


It was the trade war made real for thousands. An announcement by Google that it has stopped providing software and hardware services to Huawei sent many trying to flog their devices for fear that the Chinese handsets may be cut off from Google apps like Youtube and Gmail. As with many such knee-jerk reactions though, it's a little overblown. While there will be repercussions, it may not be completely dire.

Our tech journalists explain how the move will affect Huawei phones:

What you need to know if you own a Huawei or Honor phone

Get more on the US-China trade war:

Insight feature: Are the superpowers heading for a collision, or can they be frenemies?

Insight feature: What would Lee Kuan Yew advise?

Other developments:

Singapore and Malaysia have signed an agreement to defer construction of a cross-border MRT link up till Sept 30 this year. As part of the deal, Malaysia will also reimburse Singapore more than $600,000 - for abortive costs incurred as a result of the six-month suspension of the planned Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link.

The man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks was formally charged with terrorism for the first time, New Zealand police said. In addition to the terror charge, he faces 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder over the March 15 attacks.

China's defence minister will speak at an Asia defence forum in Singapore, the organiser said, the first time in eight years that Beijing has been represented at this level at the gathering and at a time when China-US ties are strained over trade and security.

That's it for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.