The growth of the anti-establishment movement outside the West

The growth of the anti-establishment movement outside the West

With Narendra Modi in India, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and the recent political troubles in Brazil; the trend of the so called ‘anti-establishment’ is spreading outside of the West.

Donald Trump’s receiving of the Republican nomination for President, the UK voting to leave the EU and Syriza coming to power in Greece, are part of what has become known as the anti-establishment movement. This trend has also been seen in countries outside the ‘West’ with India and the Philippines electing candidates that could be labelled as the anti-establishment.

India: Modi’s anti-establishment stance

In India the victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 election was also a vote against the long ruling Indian National Congress-who had been in power for most of the post-independence period.

Congress had been in existence since 1885 and had been a prominent part of the campaign for independence in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Following independence in 1947, the party was more or less in power consistently until 2014, under the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty which constituted the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his descendants.

By the 2014 elections, the population felt that Congress had failed to fix the many issues that plagued the country, such as corruption and poor infrastructure. They decided to vote for Narendra Modi and the BJP-a leader who had achieved great success as Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 but had a chequered history because of incidents such as the 2002 Gujarat riots. The BJP is a divisive party with its strong right wing Hindu nationalist sentiments.

Nonetheless it can be argued that the BJP and Modi won because they stood against the establishment of Congress; people wanted change and they offered it. They gained power as people were willing to overlook their flaws for the promise of something different.

What Modi and the BJP reflected in the election campaign is generally what has been seen in his premiership. With an economy which grew at an average rate of 7.5% in 2015, but a country which has seen communal conflicts, such as Muslims being killed for eating beef. Providing evidence of how Modi swept to power on the back of a desire for change and to reject the establishment.

Philippines: Duterte’s blunt approach

In May 2016 the trend of the anti-establishment movement saw another example in the Philippines with the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President.

Duterte is a controversial figure and has been labelled as ‘Duterte Harry’ and the Philippine Donald Trump. This has been due to his controversial record as Mayor of Davao City and his outspoken comments and brash boasts, such as his threat to ‘butcher’ criminals.

His recent comments calling US President Barack Obama a ‘son of a whore’ have added to this reputation. As have recent allegations from a former death squad member, Edgar Matobato, that Duterte once shot a justice department agent with a machinegun.

Although Duterte has been in Philippines politics and governing positions for a significant period of time, around 20 years, his outspoken and blunt nature has seen him categorised as an untraditional figure. Certainly he represents a new kind of leadership, away from the quiet diplomacy that was more common in the recent past. As with elsewhere in the world where there is a desire for change, Duterte’s election represents a desire for strong leadership and change.

Overall it is clear that those who have been in power for long stretches of time, even if it under different guises, are being challenged all over the world and not just in the West.

As global issues such as a growing population, terrorism, climate change and a sluggish economy continue to cause issues, those who can promise to fix the mistakes of the current rulers will continue to gain support in new, sometimes controversial forms.

The anti-establishment movement is not as consistent in its spread outside of the West as it is inside, as shown by countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan and China, where the governments in place have been part of the political makeup in the past. However, the examples of India and the Philippines provide evidence that the anti-establishment movement is a worldwide phenomenon, at least to some extent.

Categories: Asia Pacific, Politics

About Author

Rayhan Chouglay

Rayhan Chouglay is a GRI Analyst. He holds a BA in History from the London School of Economics with a particular focus on Hindu-Muslim relations in South Asia. His main political risk interests concern relations between India and Pakistan.