Asia has been gripped by election fever all year. The Philippines and Taiwan have chosen new presidents; India and Malaysia have ushered in new parliaments and prime ministers. September brings two more vital polls: a legislative election in Hong Kong and a presidential election in Indonesia. Voters there may also extend a disturbing paradox that has emerged in the region: the more "vigorous" Asian democracy becomes, the more dysfunctional it is.
There is no shortage of examples. The attempt by opposition parties to impeach South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun on the flimsiest of excuses; Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's inability to pass legislation through a parliament controlled by the opposition Kuomintang; Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's stalemated first term and the logjam over the fiscal reforms needed to prevent a predicted Argentine-style meltdown early in her second: each bears testimony to democratic paralysis in Asia.
If deadlock and confusion were the only results, such political impasses might be tolerable. But chronic stalemate has confronted many Asian democracies with the threat of being discredited, a potential for violence, and the prospect of economic decline.
Indeed, the precedents of democratic immobility in Asia are hardly encouraging. For example, since Pakistan's creation in 1947, partisan divisions have ensured that no elected government has been able to serve its full term. So Pakistanis have grimly accepted military rule as their destiny.