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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 22, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 42

The Hot-Air Campaign
Weird and wired

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Special Report: People's Will?
Coalitions, caucuses, even a coup - democracy in Asia is getting more complicated and messy. Are the people's demands still getting through?

Pakistan: Here We Go Again After grabbing power for the fifth time in 52 years, Pakistan's generals may put in place a civilian government sooner rather than later

Timeline The ups and downs of Pakistan's recent history

Indonesia Win or lose, B.J. Habibie stands in the shadows

Malaysia Speculation continues over the election date

Precedent Can Anwar run for Parliament from Prison?

India Will the new government survive?

Into Thin Air How to sell a candidate

Vajpayee The Indian PM remains beholden to his Hindu nationalist benefactors. Yet increasingly he is being his own man

Viewpoint India elected an old PM with new friends

The 1999 Indian general elections will be remembered not for the issues, which were few, but for the balloons. When Congress leader Sonia Gandhi landed at a campaign rally, she was often greeted by a 16-meter-tall white balloon in the shape of a giant hand - symbol of Congress. One replica of a bus (but turned upside down) was meant to ridicule Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's famous trip to the border meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, the now-ousted Nawaz Sharif. Another giant balloon in the shape of a cellular telephone reminded voters of a telecom scam reputedly involving the PM's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The other parties had their own gimmicks. Not to be outdone in the larger-than-life department, the BJP erected a 33-meter cutout of its leader in Bombay. Markets were loaded with sarees, disposable coffee mugs and fountain pens, all emblazoned with symbols of the political parties. One newspaper taunted Italian-born Sonia Gandhi by running a "recipe" ad in Italian. The message: you can't read her language; she cannot speak Hindi.

Many candidates turned to cyberspace. By one calculation 369 new political sites opened during the election. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu mounted a well-wired campaign. Wherever he was on the campaign trail, he carried his computer to scan demographic details of the constituency he was visiting. When he hopped out to address impromptu street-corner meetings, his amplified voice boomed out - but few noticed the lapel mike pinned to his shirt.

Of course, sometimes the imagery backfired. The giant hand balloon symbolizing Congress refused to stay aloft in the town of Amethi, where Sonia Gandhi filed nomination papers to run for Parliament. Then it crumpled to the ground. Though she won the district, her party crumpled everywhere else.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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