MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME
About the Webinar
Malaysia’s political context has been in a flux for some time. This webinar will revisit the sets of political, economic, and social ideas that have sustained previous eras, which I term ‘political orders’, and explore what is to come.
The history of contemporary Malaysia can be split into four such orders:
- Post-Independence (1957-1969), characterized by economic laissez faire and ethnic elite consociationalism.
- The New Economic Policy (1969-1990), marked by state intervention to redistribute economic opportunities, upward social mobility for ordinary Malays, and the opposition challenging the regime from the Islamic and non-Malay flanks.
- Vision 2020-Bangsa Malaysia (1991-2005), driven by Malaysia’s economic boom and subsequent slump in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis. This coincided with a very multi-ethnic state narrative and UMNO firmly in the middle ground, although the opposition grew on the back of Reformasi.
- UMNO’s fraying (2005-2020), typified by economic stagnation and policy drift, accompanied by the party’s move rightwards and the shrinking of its coalition. Opposition movements benefited, culminating in the Bersih rallies, and the victory of Pakatan Harapan in 2018.
The country’s political reconfigurations in 2020 and 2021 have yet to see a new order coalesce. With a highly urbanized population, very well-connected online citizenry, and the influx of younger voters due to lowered voting age and automatic registration, I argue that Malaysia is about to enter another ‘political order’. While the demise of UMNO’s hegemony has been accompanied by prolonged uncertainties, it may also give rise to a new compact premised on a multi-ethnic middle ground attracted to the ideas of social and economic justice.
About the Speaker
Liew Chin Tong is a writer, politician and former Deputy Defence Minister of Malaysia.