The Economist on Malaysia

The Economist, is easily one of my favourite magazines out there. I occasionally buy a copy from the newsstand, but more often than not, get it free while I’m on a plane. I think the tipping point to subscription for me, happened today. Some articles I’d like to bring to your attention, with select quotes.

Malaysia’s election | The no-colour revolution

“In five states, including the most populous, the opposition will form the government. This is extremely good news for many reasons. The most basic is that democracies need a vibrant and credible opposition. Any party that stays in power for half a century is liable to show signs of complacency, arrogance and corruption, and UMNO is no exception.”

“Second, the election result is a victory for hope over fear. At times the government has used harsh laws against opponents.” It goes on to say, “the National Front has played on the fears evoked by the ghosts of 1969, when opposition advances at the polls were followed by bloody race riots. A vote for the opposition, went the none-too-subtle message, would risk bloodshed as the Malay majority took its revenge on
the minorities. Yet it was not only many ethnic-Chinese voters (about a quarter of the population) and, especially, disgruntled ethnic Indians
(about 8%) who deserted the National Front. Many Malays switched too.”

It wasn’t electoral suicide: “That is a third reason for optimism: communal tension may not be the tinderbox that Malaysia has for so long assumed it to be. If so, the result may herald new thinking about the institutionalised racism of the pro-Malay affirmative-action policies introduced after 1969. The opposition parties campaigned on a platform of “colour-blind” affirmative action—help for those who need it, not for a particular ethnic group.”

On the NEP? “Many seem to have recognised that the policy has become less a means for redistributing wealth to the disadvantaged than a vehicle for
corruption and cronyism.”

The Internet and Malaysian politics | The perils of modernity

“Even before election night, the internet had already played a big part in the vote. Malaysia has an unusual combination of high internet
penetration and pliant mainstream media. It is therefore fertile ground for cyber-politics. According to the government’s multimedia regulator,
3.9m of the country’s 28m people have dial-up internet subscriptions and 1.2m broadband. Some 60% of the population, it reckons, use the
internet. Even if that is an overestimate, the limitations of the mainstream media are enough to drive politics online.”

On why Dr. Mahathir did something useful: “Television hardly ever covers opposition rallies and speeches. But the online world is delightfully free. Anxious to make Malaysia a high-tech cyber-hub, the county’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, exempted websites from the annual licensing requirements that help keep print publications deferential. The 1998 Communications and Multimedia Act decreed that there would be no censorship of the internet.”

“Mr Pua thinks all parties underestimated the effects of “secondary access” to the internet, as news broken on the web—of opposition rallies, for example—was disseminated by word-of-mouth and mobile-phone text messages.””Most worrying for the government and the mainstream media, Malaysia is young. A new generation sees the internet as its primary news source.”

Malaysia’s election upset | Anwar overturns the apple cart

“After 22 years of rule by the abrasive and authoritarian Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Badawi was seen as more conciliatory and more committed to tackling corruption. He has indeed offered a less acerbic style. But few believe corruption has lessened. Instead, there has been a series of ugly scandals. And the high-flying Mr Khairy, Mr Badawi’s son-in-law (and a former intern at The Economist), has become what one observer calls a “walking, talking, boasting” symbol of nepotism.”

That’s a lesser known fact – Khairy Jamaluddin, was an intern at The Economist.

“M. Manoharan, an ethnic-Indian lawyer, was elected to the state assembly of Selangor, despite being detained without charge under the
Internal Security Act after a street protest last November. He was elected in a predominantly ethnic-Chinese constituency.”

Once you’re done reading the amazing Economist, don’t hesitate to read the comments as well (that’s something you can’t get in the paper version of The Economist, eh?).

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  1. danny says:

    Another good magazine your could pick up this is this month’s edition of EDGE magazine. Very good coverage and excellent write-ups on the recent election.

  2. byte says:

    Hi Danny!

    Do they have a website?

    Is it an international magazine?