Southeast Asia: Strong-State Democratization in Malaysia and Singapore

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 19-33
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Enduring authoritarian stability in Malaysia and Singapore has been a product of these countries’ extraordinarily powerful state apparatuses. Strong states emerged well before both countries’ authoritarian turns in the 1960s, and would continue to help stabilize national politics if Malaysia and Singapore were to undergo the sort of “strong-state democratization” that has been witnessed in South Korea and Taiwan. Yet the same state strength that facilitates stable transitions to democracy also empowers authoritarian rulers to forestall democratization altogether. The main reason democratization should go smoothly in Malaysia or Singapore is also the main reason it might not transpire at all.