Comparative Malaysian leadership : Tunku Abdul Rahman and Mahathir Mohamad

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-473
Journal / PublicationAsian Survey
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


In the course of their democratic competitions, elites seek to mobilize new groups of supporters and to re-energize those who already support them. Appeals to ethnic and class sentiments may constitute an effective means of mobilization; invoked too intensively, however, such appeals are socially divisive and politically destabilizing. The likelihood that elites and aspiring elites will make these kinds of appeals depends upon at least three variable conditions: (1) the strength of rules of the game that restrain interelite competition; (2) the seriousness of mass cleavages to which unrestrained elites may appeal; and (3) the ways in which paramount political leaders affect interelite and elite-mass relations. This article discusses the importance of these conditions for democratic stability and how they help to make sense of Malaysia's democratic regime, first under the prime ministership of Tunku Abdul Rahman in the 1969 crisis period, then during the late 1980s under the controversial leadership of Mahathir Mohamad. -from Author