Past Events

Regionalism, Ethnic Politics, and Power in Malaysia

About the Talk:

Few expected PH’s defeat of the BN in GE14. Despite PH’s success, reform has been difficult and identity politics have strained the coalition, ultimately contributing to its collapse. Regionalism in Malaysia can help to make sense of these developments. The social and political changes of the last few decades have made conventional categories like major ethnic groups (MCIO) or administrative units (the states) less useful for understanding voting patterns and political influence. Instead, Malaysia can be conceived of as having four distinct identity-based political arenas, each with their own electoral dynamics and unique visions of what Malaysia should look like. One of those arenas is disproportionately important for maintaining power, which gives it the ability to set the political agenda and effectively constrain the range of politically feasible reforms. In that sense, Malaysia’s regionalism provides insights into how the BN was defeated in GE14, why reform has been so difficult, and why the coalition ultimately collapsed.


Date: 9 March 2020, Monday
Time: 8.00pm – 10.00pm (Doors open at 7.30pm)
Venue: Conference Hall, Penang Institute, 10-12 Brown Road, 10350 George Town

About the Speaker:

Kai Ostwald is a political scientist from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is also the director of UBC’s Centre for Southeast Asia Research and the associate editor of the academic journal Pacific Affairs. Much of his research addresses ethnic politics, elections, and decentralization, including in Malaysia. He is an affiliate of ISEAS in Singapore and was briefly based at the Penang Institute in 2013. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, and an MA from the National University of Singapore.

Moderator: Yeong Pey Jung, Research Projects Advisor and Senior Analyst (Socioeconomics & Statistics Programme)

*Note: Dato’ Dr Ooi Kee Beng will not be joining us as a discussant for this event. We apologize for any inconvenience caused. Thank you.