"The Slow Road from Authoritarianism
to Democracy: Where are Malaysia and Singapore?"
Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh,
Senior editor, Asia, Economist Intelligence
Unit (EIU), Singapore
For decades, the vast majority of Malaysians and Singaporeans appeared
relatively content with their respective ruling parties-the Barisan
Nasional (BN) coalition and the People's Action Party (PAP). Their
consistent electoral success was built on a combination of rapid
economic growth and iron-fisted political control.
As living standards got better, most people in the two countries
were happy to live their lives quietly under the democratic radar.
But over the past decade, a combination of forces-including policy
missteps by the ruling parties, the emergence of more credible opposition
candidates, and the widening of political space through the Internet-has
blown the lid off these hitherto politically apathetic countries.
Malaysia and Singapore are, in reality, witnessing two slow, quiet,
largely peaceful socio-political revolutions that will ultimately
change the complexion of the region.
What is prompting these changes? How are the ruling parties responding,
and what does the future hold for the fabled one-party state? How
are historical narratives being revised and rewritten? What are
the implications for the different strata of society, particularly
the less fortunate? How is civil society evolving? Is the sense
of "identity" in Malaysia and Singapore likely to change?
Join us for a discussion of these issues.
Sudhir Vadaketh was born in Singapore, and left after completing
high school and mandatory military service to study at Berkeley
and Harvard, before returning home in 2005. His literary and research
interests are about the way grand political and social systems influence
ordinary people's lives, their worldviews, and their interactions
with each other. He hopes to follow his first book, Floating
on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore,
with narratives on Asia's other great societies. Sudhir will be
leaving his job is as a senior editor with the Economist Intelligence
Unit (EIU) at the end of March to pursue a new book project. He
has written for a variety of publications, including The Economist
and The Straits Times.