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Malaysia – towards a topology of an electoral one-party state


Wong, CH and Chin, JU and Othman, N, Malaysia - towards a topology of an electoral one-party state, Democratization, 17, (5) pp. 920-949. ISSN 1743-890X (2010) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2010 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/13510347.2010.501179


For the first time in 51 years of independence, Malaysia’s ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN) under the weak leadership of Abdullah Badawi was denied its customary parliamentary two-third majority in the 2008 elections. The three major opposition parties, which formed the Pakatan Rakyat (The People’s Alliance, PR) after the elections, increased the number of opposition-held state governments from one to five. The opposition had never held more than two state governments at any one time.1 For many practitioners and students of Malaysian politics, the 2008 poll means the birth of a long overdue ‘two-party system’, where two multiethnic coalitions contest for power and alternate in running the country. After all, two similar attempts to build a Malay-dominated second coalition to rival the ruling coalition dominated by the ethno-nationalist United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were made in the 1990 and 1999 elections by former UMNO leaders who lost in their party in-fighting. Sadly, the coalitions built did not survive even the next elections. We argue that such optimism may be misplaced due to a failure to appreciate the ‘electoral one-party state’ nature of Malaysia.2 Despite having held 13 national elections without failure, and having almost no incidence of in- or post-election violence, neither a military coup nor ‘people’s power’, Malaysia has never been anywhere close to being a ‘consolidated democracy’, 52 years after joining what Huntington called the second wave of democratization.3 For Linz and Stepan, a consolidated democracy requires not only a government with de facto authority to generate policy and exclusive de jure power, but also that ‘this government comes to power that is the direct result of a free and popular vote’. In other words, democracy has to become ‘the only game in town’.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Malaysia; one-party state; opposition parties; two-party system; United Malays National Organisation; consolidated democracy
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Political science
Research Field:Government and politics of Asia and the Pacific
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Government and politics
Objective Field:Government and politics not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Chin, JU (Professor James Chin)
ID Code:99651
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:24
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2015-03-31
Last Modified:2016-08-19

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