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Political Reform and the Demise of Consociationalism in Southeast Asia

Reilly, B. (2011) Political Reform and the Demise of Consociationalism in Southeast Asia. In: Croissant, Aurel and Bünte, Marco, (eds.) The crisis of democratic governance in Southeast Asia. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 114-130.

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Southeast Asia has undergone a significant political transformation over the past two decades. Until 1986, not a single Southeast Asian state could be classified as genuinely democratic. Today, Indonesia is the world's third largest democracy, East Timor has emerged as Asia's newest democratic state, and the Philippines and Thailand remain nominal, if deeply troubled, democracies, Thailand having returned to unstable civilian rule following the 2006 coup, while defective democracy continues in the Philippines. All of these Southeast Asian countries also meet Huntington's 'two-turnover test' of democratic development (Huntington, 1991, 1 further page (266-7)) - that is, they have experienced at least two peaceful turnovers of power via the electoral process. By contrast, there have been no turnovers of power in the long-standing 'semi-democracies' of Malaysia and Singapore, although both maintain regular and mostly fraud-free elections, albeit with heavy restrictions on opposition movements backed by a compliant judiciary and a pro-government press. A third Southeast Asian state, Cambodia, could also be seen as a borderline member of this 'semi-democratic' group: while there have been no turnovers of power since the UN -sponsored polls of 1993, competitive elections do take place, although marred by significant voting irregularities, intimidation, and violence.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright: The Author
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