'Asian democracy' appears to be working for many parts of the world: Credit Suisse

Key Points
  • The shift from Western-style democracy to strongman rule has been something of a global phenomenon, said Lito Camacho, vice chairman for Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse.
  • "Asian democracy" may seem to be working better in many parts of the world compared to Western-style democracy, Camacho added.
The rise of authoritarianism globally

Concerns over the rise of far-right politics in the past two years may have receded recently, but the tides are changing when it comes to how countries are governed.

"We see a shift from a preference for Western-style democracy, the old paradigms, the old conventions of free trade and globalization, to more strongman rule [and] firmer control of governments," said Lito Camacho, vice chairman for Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse.

He added that the change was a part of a broader global phenomenon.

A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit in January found that the Asia Pacific region had "experienced the biggest decline" in democratic freedoms of any of its seven regions in 2017 — despite having risen in the annual rankings in prior years.

Camacho's comments came on the back of several recent political developments that have evidenced a less liberal style of politics, from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports for most countries to Chinese leader Xi Jinping's consolidation of power at the recent National People's Congress meeting.

Meanwhile, the contrast between the seeming stability of Xi's regime with the apparent instability of the Trump administration has also had a role in influencing the views of some in the region on matters relating to governance styles.

"I think it reinforces the view that perhaps Western-style democracy has not worked as well as it could in the past for many economies, and a different form of democracy, let's call it 'Asian democracy,' seems to be working better in many parts of the world," he said at the sidelines of the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the 121st founding anniversary of the Philippine army on March 20, 2018.
Ted Aljibe | AFP | Getty Images

Drawing from his past experience in government, Camacho, the former Philippine secretary of finance, said strong leaders were necessary for the implementation of economic reforms.

In particular, Camacho said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's strong leadership gave him the ability to push for radical reforms that would have been "inconceivable" under previous administrations, including a highly awaited tax reform.

Duterte has enjoyed strong support in the country, with Reuters reporting in January that satisfaction with the president's administration rose to record levels in a December poll. Still, the Philippine leader has drawn criticism for his violent war on drugs and human rights track record.

— CNBC's Nyshka Chandran contributed to this report.