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What a Little Democracy Can Do: Comparing Trajectories of Reform in Malaysia and Indonesia

Economic crisis sparked political mobilization in both Malaysia and Indonesia in the late 1990s, but with very different results.  Reformism in competitive electoral authoritarian Malaysia took a largely electoral route, yielding marginal, top-down institutional change and the enhancement of democratic norms. The hegemonic electoral authoritarian regime in neighbouring Indonesia, on the other hand, was toppled by a sudden upsurge of grass-roots protest, encouraged by elite factionalism. Changes to Indonesian political institutions and personnel since then have disappointed many reformers, and mounting cynicism endangers the entrenchment of democratic political culture. The article argues that a relatively more democratic system grants more space for autonomous challengers to organize and mobilize over the long term than a less open system does.  Source Democratization, Vol.14, No.1, February 2007, pp.26–43.  Author: Weiss, Meredith L. 

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