A record number of people are heading to the polls around the world this year, including in Asia.

This is particularly significant for the region because with the exception of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, Asia-Pacific is seeing a significant increase in populism and authoritarianism, harking back to an era when strongmen presidents ruled with an iron fist. Hundreds of millions of votes won’t necessarily mean more democracy.

There are a few reasons for this. We have already seen the rise of less democratic leaders in the Netherlands and Italy, and there is a corresponding trend in Asia. China’s alternative model of governance, which prioritizes economic development over civil liberties, is increasingly appealing.