Can we interpret the result of the 2014 general elections in India as the re-emergence of Hindu nationalism? If we can, does this mean that the majority support exclusive nationalism that is propagated by Hindu nationalists? In this article, in order to answer these questions, I analyze elector’s voting behavior at national, state, and village levels. At the national level, the election issues were the mal-governance of the incumbent UPA government as exemplified by stagflation and corruption, and the exalted hope in the capacity of Narendra Modi’s decisive leadership to solve these economic difficulties. In this election, the lower strata of society, that is, the Lower Backward Castes and Scheduled Castes, who were not traditional supporters of the BJP, voted for Narendra Modi’s BJP. In this sense, the BJP succeeded in consolidating the long-awaited “Hindu vote” in a loose way. This does not necessarily mean that the “Hindu vote” supports the exclusive Hindu nationalism that was expressed during the 2002 Gujarat carnage. However, they did implicitly endorse the political decision that Modi took at that time. In Bihar, which the BJP has been eager to capture for a long time but had failed to do so, the BJP and its alliance won the election. On analysis, the voting behavior in the state shows the same trend as at the national level. Considering the good reputation of the incumbent JD(U) state government, this result may reflect strategic voting behavior in which many voters took account of the national elections. However, we can observe that the “Hindu vote” is loosely taking shape in Bihar, also. Lastly, at the village level, the BJP could not win in the constituency where I conducted my fieldwork. However, the BJP candidate did succeed in getting a considerable number of votes. In a Yadav dominated village, most Yadavs supported the RJD, which is known as the Yadav’s party, and the Scheduled Castes supported the JD(U) government. However, among stubborn supporters of the RJD, there were some who held out strong hopes for Modi. Their main concerns are economic issues, not the exclusion of minorities. In conclusion, BJP’s victory represents the aspiration of voters for economic betterment. On the other hand, the political responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat carnage has become a thing of the past. The present Modi BJP government does not seem interested in instigating religious violence to consolidate their power. However, if they fail to meet voters’ aspirations, the danger of a violent exclusion of the minority is ever-present as Hindu nationalists have vigorously conducted an anti-Muslim campaign since Modi seized power.
Indonesia’s post-Suharto governments have conducted democratic elections every five years since 1999 for both parliaments and presidency. The latest elections in 2014 showed a heated battle between two presidential contenders, namely Joko Widodo (popularly called Jokowi)—the Governor of Jakarta—and Prabowo Subianto who led his right-wing political party, Gerindra. The victory of Jokowi in the presidential election has widely been seen as a success story of ordinary man with no elite background to enjoy strong grass-roots support. Jokowi’s rise to Indonesia’s seventh president is therefore evaluated both domestically and internationally as a critical step towards the country’s democratic consolidation. However, the fact that Prabowo—who was Suharto’s son-in-law and a top army general during the authoritarian days—gained 47% of total votes and performed a close contest with Jokowi should not be ignored to understand the nature of electoral democracy in post-Suharto Indonesia. Why could Prabowo, a legacy of the authoritarian heyday, gain such a large number of votes and become a serious threat to Jokowi? It was antiforeign nationalism and Suharto-era romanticism that characterized Prabowo’s electoral appeal. On the one hand, he clamored for the return to good old days in facing today’s ‘excessive’ democracy heavily influenced by the West. On the other hand, he openly criticized that foreign companies operating in Indonesia are predators who exploit the country’s economic resources, insisting on the need for propelling protectionism in various sectors in the name of saving the country. If he were the winner of the 2014 presidential election, Indonesia’s democratic outlook would be very different. This article examines the dynamics of Prabowo’s electoral challenge and reveals socio-economic structures that contributed to his vote mobilization. I argue that Prabowo’s challenge has been discussed mostly in the context of his personal political ambition, but it actually goes beyond that and resonates with socio-economic cleavages that have been deepened under the previous government led by President Yudhoyono (2004–2014). Thus, the article concludes, it is possible that a similar challenge will recur even without Prabowo in the future, and, to understand such a threat to democratic consolidation, it is important for us to ‘de-personalize’ Prabowo’s challenge and examine the socio-economic vulnerability that creates wider political space for right-wing conservative elitism to maneuver in the age of globalization.
Thai politics has become chaotic since 2006 due to democratization and the tenacious attempts to oppose it. Democratization advanced slowly from the 1970s and accelerated in the 1990s, partly because the military, politically influential for a long time since 1932, retreated from politics after 1992. It became possible for the people to choose the prime minister and the government through general elections. However, anti-democratic demonstrators who felt unhappy with democratization appeared in 2005. They paid little respect to elections results and, instead, asked the monarchy to dismiss the prime minister and appoint a new one. They formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in 2006. There have been three waves of de-democratization. Anti-democratic forces, spearheaded by PAD, included judicial institutions and the military as the main actors. They successfully toppled elected governments in 2006, 2008 and 2014. In 2013, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by several politicians of the opposition Democrat Party, assumed the role of commanding demonstrators in place of PAD. Court verdicts and military intervention have become more instrumental in the change of national leaders than national elections. This essay will analyze how the anti-democratic forces succeeded in negating election results and depriving the people of power. In their struggle against democratization, they have resorted to a kind of nationalism. The nationalism is neither ethnic nor exclusionist, partly since democratization in Thailand was not the product of external pressure. Rather it is nationalism opposed to democracy, or popular sovereignty. It gives the highest priority to the monarchy rather than the people. The Thai historian Thongchai Winichakul has called it “royal nationalism.” The Thai political regime officially stipulated in the constitutions since 1978 has been “a democratic regime with the monarch as the head of the state.” The bizarre feature of this regime is that the monarch and the people are co-owners of sovereign power. It is not a democratic regime based on the principle of popular sovereignty. The monarchy is not necessarily under the constitution. Respective percentage shares in sovereign power between the monarchy and the people have never been fixed. It is quite reasonable to allege that the monarchy holds the larger share in order to negate or dilute the democratic legitimacy of elected politicians. This is the reason why the anti-democratic forces, PAD/PDRC, the military and the judiciary have pledged their allegiance to the monarchy and have lavished the highest laudatory statements on the monarchy. Thus the undemocratic forces, unhappy with the advancement of electoral democracy undermining their conventional power and privileges (for example, the royalists hoping for an expanded role for the monarchy, and the urban middle-class feeling disadvantaged due to their numerical inferiority) have supported “royal nationalism.”
Chinese nationalism tends to excessively react to some specific problems which oppose to Japan, USA or West European countries in particular. This “anti-West” sentiment of the Chinese society has been regarded as the “trauma” of invasion by the Great Powers. Yet when reviewing Chinese cognition after the national foundation in 1949, there were the times when Chinese nationalism expanded without connecting to the “anti-West” assessment. For example, despite the rise of “patriotism” in the 1980s, Chinese public opinion took a conciliatory attitude to the Western countries, especially to Japan. Similarly, it was observed that while the nationalism kept on surging, Chinese public sentiments towards Japan continuously improved from 2006 to 2010. These phenomena can’t be explained by a simple logic that “the surge of nationalism promotes anti-foreignism.” This paper hypothesizes the contemporary Chinese nationalism as multiple political thought in order to examine the dynamism of its “anti-West” logics. Here, the centripetal force of Chinese official nationalism is extracted as the four elements; national identity, socialism, economic development and notion of great power. Using these factors, this paper discusses the mechanism how Chinese nationalism links to the “anti-West” sentiments. In conclusion, this paper argues that the “anti-West” sentiments is not only an extension of the historical trauma, but it is also promoted by official nationalism. At the same time, however, it is also pointed out two elements of the official nationalism—economic development and notion of great power—functioned to offset the public “anti-West” feelings.