Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

The Unravelling of a "Malay Consensus"

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

The Unravelling of a "Malay Consensus"

Article excerpt

Maznah Mohamad

While the Asian financial crisis had ebbed by late 1999, Malaysia was still raging with its own political turmoil. Long after former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim had been sacked and imprisoned, opposition towards the Mahathir government appeared strident. The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) --- hitherto seen as pivotal for political stability in the country --- continued to grapple for a "blueprint" to sustain its dominance of the Malay polity. Although Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rode through both the financial and the Anwar crises relatively unscathed, albeit through heavy-handed measures, his political survival did not seem guaranteed.

The position UMNO finds itself in today is not comparable to the many rounds of crises that the party had been through in recent decades. Previous crises were resolved quickly, but the Anwar episode has deprived UMNO of a continuing ideological rationale for its self-perpetuation. UMNO and Dr Mahathir found themselves entangled in events which were reduced to a series of political responses, defences, and vendettas that contributed little to the party's consolidation.

This chapter analyses how and why UMNO successfully overcame earlier crises in contrast to its latest experience. …

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