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The recent mass protests in Hong Kong have highlighted China's strengthening grip, while also bringing hope to people struggling for freedom elsewhere. (© Nikkei montage/Source photos by Getty Images and Reuters)
Asia Insight

Asia's fragile democracies struggle to tame illiberal forces

Vibrant elections across region mask a lack of checks and balances

ANDREW SHARP, Nikkei Asian Review deputy politics & economy news editor | Southeast Asia

TOKYO/JAKARTA -- On a sweltering Saturday, tens of thousands of people dressed in red and white lined the streets of the Indonesian capital. Cheering, waving, smiling, they were heading to the national stadium for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's final rally before the April 17 election.

Those lucky enough to get into the arena packed with more than 100,000 supporters were treated to an afternoon of music from contemporary pop stars and grizzled rockers, as well as some religious chanting. With people fainting in the heat, Widodo came out to a rapturous reception.

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