chapter  9
14 Pages

Malaysia: The Consolidation of Semi-authoritarianism

WithRobert Pinkney

Malaysia's successful economic development rules out the sanction of withdrawal of aid, so an alternative route to democracy promotion is to persuade the government that 'good governance' is in its own interests. The prospects for pluralist democracy in Malaysia do not look significantly brighter than those in Singapore. As in most newly independent colonies, the departing rulers did not worry overmuch about the future of democracy, beyond bequeathing a constitution with minimal democratic features. Malaysia appeared to have moved from a paternalistic form of government to one of more arbitrary rule. The treatment of Anwar Ibrahim offended not only the usual civil libertarians who favoured something closer to liberal democracy, but traditionalists who saw it as contrary to the normal tolerance of Malay culture. As in Singapore, four decades of rapid economic development have not produced any transition to pluralist democracy, but have enabled the state to consolidate semi-authoritarian rule.