Electoral authoritarianism in Malaysia : Trajectory shift

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-333
Journal / PublicationPacific Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


This paper proposes an analytical framework by which to understand the origins, functioning, and dynamics of electoral authoritarianism in Malaysia. It thus explores notions of historical legacies, structural pressures, critical junctures, and institutional formation. But in guarding against teleology, it also considers elite agency and 'stunning elections'. This framework is applied in the case of Malaysia because, in anticipating contemporary trends, the country has so long perpetuated a paradigmatic electoral authoritarian regime. And yet, with many countries growing similarly authoritarian today, Malaysia has suddenly become less so, with the government having been dealt a startling setback in its latest contest, held in March 2008, thus losing its extraordinary majority in parliament and control over five states. Hence, if democratization once again gains steam round the world, Malaysia may presage this trend too, with its electoral authoritarianism, long so resilient, perhaps poised today on the edge of transition. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • Critical junctures, Democratization, Electoral authoritarianism, Elites, Malaysia