Neoliberalism, Contentious Politics, and the Rise of Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia
Authoritarian movements are on the march globally. Southeast Asia is no exception. Our aim in this chapter is to gain a sense of the dynamics of this trend in Southeast Asia. Democracy is definitely on the wane in the region, with only Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Myanmar meeting the criteria of having competitive electoral politics and the non-monopolization of power by any single individual or institution, to use the narrowest definition of democracy. Moreover, with the exception of Indonesia, one would find it difficult to characterize the others as being in a healthy state. In Myanmar, the military is non-accountable to the fragile civilian administration led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Malaysia’s democratic system is built on the institutionalized supremacy of one ethnic group, the Malays, over another, the Chinese. And while the Philippine government continues to retain the trappings of electoral democracy, under the presidency of President Rodrigo Duterte, it is fast sliding into strongman rule, with widespread state-sponsored extra-judicial executions carried out with impunity and a largely successful concerted executive effort to subjugate Congress and the Supreme Court.
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