The Newsletter 56 Spring 2011

Opinion: License to lead

Kerry Brown

There are big cultural differences in the way leadership is exercised from country to country. In some places, there are historic patterns of strong, personal leadership. Others prefer consensual forms of power, where, if there is a prime minister or president, they are at best only ‘fi rst amongst equals.’ Some political cultures have strong aversions to the kind of rhetoric-loving, ostentatious country heads that one sometimes gets in the west.

ASIA CONTAINS EXAMPLES of almost all of these approaches. The diversity of its political models must be the most extensive in the world. Even the ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations encompass liberal democracies, monarchies, and outright dictatorships. The Asian region extends from robust, new democracies like Indonesia, to trenchant one party states like North Korea and China, to any number of systems in between. Democracy in Japan has only recently seen an opposition party gain real power, after almost half a century of dominance by one party. In the Philippines, there remain plenty of questions of just how much benefi t the oldest democratic system in the region has delivered to its people, in terms of economics, accountability and stability.

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