Duterte’s Violent Populism in the Philippines
Since becoming Philippine President in June 2016, Rodrigo R. Duterte has launched a violent crackdown on drugs, with thousands killed by police and vigilantes. Elected in a free and fair election, Duterte rules in an illiberal but not (yet) explicitly anti-democratic fashion with the press still uncensored and the powers of congress as well as of the courts not yet formally curtailed. Although Duterte has tried to establish close ties to the communists, promised greater efforts to reduce poverty, and taken a nationalist stance against the U.S. with overtures to China, his chief domestic priority has been implementing his sub-national authoritarian Davao model nationally. He uses ‘violence as spectacle’ to discourage investigation of these killings and convey the message that he will punish ‘evil’ while protecting ordinary (‘good’) people. For many Filipinos, this state violence has created a sense of political order amidst weak institutions. Duterte’s populism shows some similarities to illiberal populism elsewhere in Southeast Asia but differs in key respects from the rich world populism of Trump and the European far right.
Mark R. Thompson is professor and head of the Department of Asian and International Studies (AIS) as well as director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre (SEARC) at the City University of Hong Kong. He is the author of The Anti-Marcos Struggle (1995) and Democratic Revolutions (2004) as well as co-editor of Dynasties and Female Political Leaders in Asia (2013), co-author of ‘The Vote in the Philippines: Electing a Strongman’, Journal of Democracy (October 2016), and editor of/author in a recent special issue in the Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs on the early Duterte presidency (journals.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/jsaa/article/view/1007). He is completing a co-authored book about the Philippine presidency and is a contributor to East Asia Forum, Nikkei Asian Review, The Diplomat, The Huffington Post, and The Conversation.
Speaker: Mark R. Thompson,Professor & Head of Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong
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