Carl Marc Lazaro Ramota (University of the Philippines)
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia are widely considered the only two electoral democracies in the region, having successfully conducted a number of presidential elections, which have been considered as largely fair, popular, and competitive. While neither of the two countries can be considered as a mature democracy, they have at least managed to qualify as what academics classify as a "minimalist-procedural" democracy. In contrast to their autocratic neighbors, which regularly conduct parliamentary elections to create a veneer of democratic competition, the Philippines and Indonesia have seen a genuine rotation of power among competing political parties: Elections were not simply a staged effort for the legitimization of the incumbent party/coalition, providing opposition parties a genuine chance at electoral victory.
In defiance of autocratic leaders, which have self-servingly argued against democratization and human rights at lower stages of economic development, both Indonesia and the Philippines have managed to qualify as electoral democracies despite widespread poverty, inequality, and relatively low income levels. However, in absence of an egalitarian economic system, and the failure of land reform in both countries, electoral contestation has been largely dominated by political dynasties and oligarchs, which bankroll personalized political parties that lack any genuine ideology and grassroots support. Bureaucratic red tape is a huge problem in Indonesia and the Philippines, which feature among the most corrupt countries in Asia.