Press Release
September 11, 2020

CALD 'The Future of Democracy in Asia' webinar series
11 September 2020, Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The 2020 US Presidential Election: Will it Matter for Democracy and Human Rights in Asia?

Opening Remarks
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of Liberal Party of the Philippines, CALD chair party

'Magandang araw. Good morning from Manila!

I would like to thank the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast and East Asia, and the Asia Centre for this next installment of the "Future of Democracy in Asia" webinar series.

I would also like to thank our speakers for joining us today as we discuss the 2020 US Presidential Election: Will it Matter for Democracy and Human Rights in Asia?

Prior to this webinar, last July 28 we sought answers to the question: "Is Hong Kong's present going to be Asia's future?" Former Hong Kong Legislative Council Member Emily Lau said that, "We in Hong Kong will continue with our shrinking freedom, with our shrinking space, to defend our free lifestyle, our rule of law, and to fight for democracy."

This has been a looming reality for a number of democracies the past several years. Like the glaciers in Antarctica, democratic spaces have drastically declined. As the rising global temperatures is to glaciers, so is the rise of elected autocrats to democratic spaces. Shootings and killings, shameless corruption, fake news promotion, and muzzling the people and the press -- all while the same leaders enjoy high approval ratings.

For most of the last century, the United States has enjoyed the reputation as the world's leading democracy. But the "land of the free and the home of the brave" has been losing the confidence of fellow democracies as Americans face inequality and brutality.

In this environment, the question that has been asked time and again is this: "Is democracy dead?" One of the hallmarks of democracy is the duty and privilege of all adult citizens to choose their leaders in an election that is open, free, and fair.

2020 marks a rather challenging year to hold an election. Aside from participating in a major democratic exercise, the US is also battling a pandemic that has affected over 27 million people worldwide.

It is said that when America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold. So what does it mean for the world when the United States leads in the number of COVID-19 infections at 6.3 million cases as of September 8? When almost 190,000 people have died from COVID-19? When 20 million Americans (and counting!) have lost their jobs? When 3.3 million businesses have had to close shop?

Without the pandemic, politics in the world's only remaining superpower would have sucked in most of the world's attention. We would have witnessed vigorous campaigning, furious debates, and packed conventions.

Nevertheless, the pandemic cannot relegate us Asians as mere spectators in the horse-race narratives of US elections.

In ways more than one, we will be impacted by how the American people will select the President who will be charged with ending the pandemic's reign of destruction, dealing with its aftermath, and leading the nation's recovery from its slide to authoritarianism.

The Trump-Biden contest is more than a test of US democracy. While scientists have long rung the alarm bells for concerted global action on the climate crisis, the pandemic has made sure that we all realize that we are all connected.

In this webinar, we will try to predict the impact of the outcome of the November electoral contest in the US on how we will be regarded here in Asia. On how the choice of an estimated 156 million American voters for president will impact the exercise of democracy and the protection and promotion of human rights of over 4.6 billion people in Asia, especially the 670 million in Southeast Asia.

The US 2020 Presidential election presents a crucial juncture on how we will survive as a species. Everyone needs to learn the lesson that one, we are all in this together. And that two, democracy and human rights are the universal principles that will help us out of all this mess

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