Low-quality democracy and varied authoritarianism : Elites and regimes in Southeast Asia today

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-269
Journal / PublicationPacific Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


In keeping with much analysis of Southeast Asian politics today, the papers in this special issue argue that it is less fruitful to study democratic transitions than authoritarian durability. At the turn of the 21st century, Southeast Asia featured three new democracies. But only Indonesia is still rated by Freedom House as 'politically free'. Yet even here, the legislators and party leaders who have been thrust up by democratic change sooner engage with top bureaucrats and business tycoons in pursuit of largesse than produce public goods. In the Philippines, corrupt practices and human rights violations have grown so severe that the country lost its rating of 'free' in 2007. And Thailand's democracy was disfigured by executive abuses, then overturned through a military coup. This issue investigates, then, the new authoritarian practices that mar regimes in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, as well as older forms that have persisted or been reconstituted in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Burma. Where these papers differ from much recent scholarship, however, is in their extending study from historical and structural factors to elite-level voluntarism and relations. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • Authoritarianism, Democracy, Elites, Southeast Asia