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DLSU’s Richard Heydarian: Duterte more like Putin than Trump. Here’s why

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President Rodrigo Duterte may have been called several times as the equivalent of United States President Donald Trump in the East, but a closer look at his personality will reveal he’s more like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This was the thesis of De La Salle University political science professor Richard Heydarian in his April 9 column for the Manila Bulletin, in which he also compared Duterte to other populist leaders such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Like Duterte, Heydarian said Putin enjoys a whopping 81-percent trust rating “even if the Russian economy has been contracting over the past few years, inflation is picking up, exchange rates are in free fall, pensions and welfare is being cut, and foreign exchange reserves have been decimated.”

Another wildly popular leader similar to Duterte is Erdogan, whose approval rating is at its highest after 15 years in power. Turkey’s President is well-liked by the people even if the country has become “unstable,” with its growth slowing down and current account imbalances “reaching precarious levels,” according to Heydarian.

In Asia, there’s Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 312 out of 403 seats in a landslide election victory in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state.

BJP’s resounding victory came despite Modi’s controversial move to demonetize certain bills, and his failure to pump-prime the economy to keep up with the booming population.

Back in the Philippines, Duterte remains popular even if the peso has become the worst performing currency in Asia, business confidence is on a decline and there is a looming current account deficit– the first time in 14 years.

For Heydarian, the rise of populist leaders like Duterte can be attributed to their ability to create an alluring image of their leadership, which may not necessarily be at par with their performance.

“It is their ability to connect with the people, reassure them of their safety and wellbeing, gain their trust, and win their unwavering loyalty,” he said of populist world leaders.

“Majority of Filipino people support Duterte, because they believe that he is a sincere and strong-willed leader, who will bring about safety, security, and eventually economic prosperity,” Heydarian added.