The slow road from authoritarianism to democracy: Where are Malaysia and Singapore?

April 10, 2013 • 1:30 – 3:00 pm EDT


Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh
Contributing Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Singapore

Moderated by:
Jerry Hyman
Hills Program on Governance

April 10, 2013

For decades, the vast majority of Malaysians and Singaporeans appeared relatively content with their governments. The consistent electoral success of their ruling parties 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 has punctured the settled political landscape of both countries. Malaysia and Singapore are 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 “benign one-party state”? What are the implications for the different strata of society, particularly the less fortunate? Is the sense of “identity” in Malaysia and Singapore likely to change?

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Gerald Hyman
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Office of the President