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Accountability and authoritarianism: Human rights in Malaysia and Singapore

Rodan, G. (2009) Accountability and authoritarianism: Human rights in Malaysia and Singapore. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 39 (2). pp. 180-203.

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The concept of accountability enjoys wide and growing appeal, its advocates submitting both normative and functional arguments for institutions limiting discretionary powers of political and economic elites. This development is seen as facilitative of democratisation, especially in post-authoritarian societies. Yet it has gone almost unnoticed that not all authoritarian regimes have dismissed accountability reform and some are adopting reforms in its name. This article contrasts the patterns in Malaysia and Singapore on a specific accountability institution - human rights commissions - offering explanations for why the former has established one and the latter not. It is argued that intra-state conflicts associated with Malaysian capitalism have created pressures and opportunities for accountability reform not matched in Singapore where there is a more cohesive ruling elite. Moreover, the PAP's acute ideological emphasis on meritocracy concedes no space for horizontal political accountability.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business
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