While Canadian attention focuses on the Ontario election, two foreign contests have quietly taken place that could end up being far more interesting.
The first is the election of hardline right-winger Yoon Suk Yeol as the new president of South Korea.
The second is the election of right-wing populist Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the new president of the Philippines.
Of the two, Yoon’s victory is the more important. It will determine the future of any rapprochement between North and South Korea.
By electing Yoon, South Koreans signalled that they were rejecting the peacemaking efforts of his predecessor Moon Jae-in.
Moon had gone out of his way to avoid conflict with the North and its leader Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately, he won little for his efforts. The North did suspend its program of nuclear tests, but it continued to test intercontinental missiles.
More to the point, the U.S. under President Joe Biden squandered the thaw by failing to reopen talks with the North.
In particular, Biden failed to follow through on historic summit meetings between Kim and former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Now, with Yoon as South Korea’s president, the door to any future peace talks is all but closed.
He has rejected Moon’s attempted opening to the North as at best a waste of time — and at worst, a gift to Kim.
The Americans are expected to approve of Yoon. He has firmly taken Washington’s side in any dispute between China and America. His mistrust of the North echoes that of U.S. officialdom.
Don’t expect much in the way of peace talks between the North and South Korea’s new government. Expect instead a return to the sour rhetoric of the old cold war there.
The Philippines is another story. It has no nuclear weapons. Its army is regularly used as a civil defence force designed to keep the citizenry in line. At one level, it doesn’t matter who is president.
But at another, it does. The Philippines, with its outdated slang and enthusiastic embrace of U.S. popular culture, represents America in the Pacific.
Everything is done to excess. When outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte was first elected, he promised to execute — without the nuisance of trials — those he believed to be drug dealers.
He kept his word; the Philippines became a centre for extrajudicial murder. Duterte’s popularity soared. In this election, his daughter Sara contested the vice-presidency, winning an overwhelming victory.
As did Marcos. Known as Bong-bong, he is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The elder Marcos was ousted in a 1986 putsch after he fell afoul of important ruling families, most notably those connected to Corazon Aquino.
But the Marcos clan always had supporters, particularly among some of the poorer residents in the country’s north.
The exact effect of this week’s presidential victory remains unclear. It may well lead to a re-examination of the original Marcos’ time in office. With luck, it will force Filipinos to take a more critical look at Duterte’s legacy.
All in all, it is an interesting development, as is the latest election in South Korea. Not everything is Doug Ford.
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