Personalized Politics: The Malaysian State under Mahathir

Personalized Politics: The Malaysian State under Mahathir

Personalized Politics: The Malaysian State under Mahathir

Personalized Politics: The Malaysian State under Mahathir

Synopsis

An analysis of regime maintenance and transformation in Malaysia. It goes beyond familiar approaches centred on communal politics, or the corporate workings of Malaysia Inc., to stress the importance of power maintenance - tracing a path from consociational bargaining to authoritarian UMNO dominance, to Dr Mahathir's personal dominance.

Excerpt

In 1955, when Malaya was still part of the British Empire, the colonial authorities held a general election as a step towards independence in 1957. That election was won by an alliance of three racially based parties headed by its Malay component, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). Over the next decades, that alliance expanded to include other parties but its essential structure remains much the same—a dominant Malay party heading an alliance of parties representing smaller ethnic groups. The UMNO-dominated alliance won all but one seat in 1955 and has won overwhelming majorities in every election since then—usually occupying around 80 to 85 per cent of the seats in the national parliament and controlling almost all of the state governments. If, as Samuel Huntington has said, one of the marks of an institutionalized political party is adaptability in the face of changing circumstances, then UMNO and the Barisan Nasional (BN), as the alliance is now known, must be considered as very successful cases of institutionalization.

Malaysian society has undergone enormous change since the 1950s. The predominantly rural population of the 1950s has become increasingly urban. An economy based on the export of tin and rubber . . .

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