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Election and Politics

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Economic crisis sparked political mobilization in both Malaysia and Indonesia in the late 1990s, but with very different results.  Reformism in competitive electoral authoritarian Malaysia took a largely electoral route, yielding marginal, top-down institutional change and the enhancement of democratic norms. The hegemonic electoral authoritarian regime in neighbouring Indonesia, on the other hand, was toppled by a sudden upsurge of grass-roots protest, encouraged by elite factionalism. Changes to Indonesian political institutions and personnel since then have disappointed many reformers, and mounting cynicism endangers the entrenchment of democratic political culture. The article argues that a relatively more democratic system grants more space for autonomous challengers to organize and mobilize over the long term than a less open system does.  Source Democratization, Vol.14, No.1, February 2007, pp.26–43.  Author: Weiss, Meredith L.

Time for Umno to rise above ethnic politics

[First published in Singapore’s Straits Times on 4 Jan 2005]

By Ooi Kee Beng


The article focuses on the troubled birth of Malaysia. The Federation of Malaysia is scheduled to come into existence on August 31 of this year by the merger of the existing Federation of Malaya with Singapore, the British colonies of Sarawak and North Borneo and the British-protected Sultanate of Brunei, thus forming a crescent well over a thousand miles long from the borders of Thailand almost to within eyesight of the southernmost Philippine islands. Although many difficulties stand in the way, the British and Malayan governments say categorically that they will not be deterred from pushing the plan through. Some of the difficulties are historical and local, for the new Federation will be a rather arbitrary assemblage of widely separated territories with mixed populations at different stages of development. More important are the objections raised by Indonesia and the Philippines. President Sukarno of Indonesia condemns Malaysia as a colonialist project because it will have a British defense guarantee.

By VEJAI BALASUBRAMANIAM. Contemporary Southeast Asia 27, no. 1 (2005): 44–63; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

This article examines the role of locality (ethnic composition of the constituency) and temporality (the almost five-year hiatus between elections) for BN in the parliamentary elections. In the 2004 Malaysian parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN), secured a two-thirds majority. BN also increased both its share of popular votes as well as the total number of seats in bumiputera majority constituencies, recovering ground lost in the 1999 elections. In bumiputera minority constituencies where voter sentiment was divided symmetrically between BN and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) it is the latter which has been more successful. It is in the mixed constituencies where BN has been most popular. The increase in the number of seats in this category of electorate has worked overwhelmingly to BN’s advantage, enabling it to control nearly 90 per cent of the 219-seat parliament, implying therefore a continuation of NEP (New Economic Policy) trends in Malaysia’s political economy.

It verges on tautology to say that internet use depends on internet availability. Obviously, the former will not occur in the absence of the latter. However, it is quite another thing to claim that there is a simple linear relationship between availability and use. It is conceivable that, once the diffusion of a communication technology has reached a certain critical threshold, every additional unit of that technology does not generate improved use, either quantitatively or qualitatively. The use to which any given level of technology is put may depend on other, non-technological factors. Accordingly, a country with lower penetration levels of a medium may, paradoxically, exhibit superior utilization of that medium than a country with higher penetration. This proposition is illustrated by comparing two neighbouring countries in Asia that implemented early and aggressive programmes to roll out public access to the internet, Malaysia and Singapore. These two states introduced the internet to their populations at about the same time, and within broadly similar regulatory regimes. Malaysia, being the larger and less wealthy of the two countries, has predictably achieved significantly lower levels of internet penetration than Singapore.Source: Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 27(6): 903–920.  Author: George, Cherian.

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