Lunch Talk: Recent Southeast Asian Elections: Malaysia 2022 and Thailand 2023

NIAS is delighted to invite you to this extended lunch talk about the recent elections in Malaysia and Thailand. In the first part of the lunch talk Meredith L. Weiss will present her research on the 2022 election and recent developments in Malaysian politics. In the second part Duncan McCargo will share his observations and takes on the election in Thailand in May 2023. This lunch talk will be held hybrid. For online participation please find the link at the bottom of this page.


Decline and Fall of Malaysia's Dominant-Party System. By Meredith L. Weiss

Decline and Fall of Malaysia's Dominant-Party System

Malaysia’s 15th general election in November 2022 decisively ended the country’s dominant-party system. What might take its place, however, remains hazy—how competitive, how polarized, how politically liberal, and how stable an order might emerge will take some time to become clear. The opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), having secured a plurality of seats, but with a sharply pronounced ethnic skew, formed a coalition government with the previously dominant, incumbent Barisan Nasional (National Front) and smaller, regional coalitions. This settlement resolved an immediate impasse, but relied upon obfuscation of real programmatic, ideological, and identity differences, raising questions of longer-term durability or results.

This uncertainty suggests three broad queries, with resonance well beyond Malaysia. The first concerns the fragmentation and reconsolidation of Malaysian party politics, and how party dominance transforms or falls. The second is the extent to which its dominant party defined or confirmed Malaysia as electoral authoritarian, and whether we should consider it still to be so. The third is what possibilities Malaysia’s apparent party-system deinstitutionalization opens up for structural reform beyond parties. Does the deterioration of that system—more than simply the previous dominant party’s electoral loss—clear the way for more far-reaching liberalization? All told, Malaysia’s incremental dismantling of its dominant-party system does not also spell the end of electoral authoritarianism. Party and party-system deinstitutionalization leave the system in flux, but illiberal reconsolidation is as plausible as progressive structural reform.

When Winning is Only the Beginning? Thailand’s 2023 Elections. By Duncan McCargo

Thailand Election 2023

Thailand held a general election on 14 May 2023, which saw a strong showing by the opposition Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties. Nevertheless, their path to power will not be an easy one. Deep mistrust of both parties by the political establishment and conservative elites means that negotiations to set up a governing coalition may result in a compromise arrangement, involving some form of promiscuous power sharing between the two sides. Somewhat reminiscent of the 2022 Malaysian elections, Thailand’s polls illustrate the complex forces at work in hybrid regimes where the routine alternation of ruling parties remains a fraught process rather than an institutionalized norm.



Meredith L. Weiss is Professor of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. In several books—most recently, The Roots of Resilience: Party Machines and Grassroots Politics in Southeast Asia (Cornell, 2020), and the co-authored Mobilizing for Elections: Patronage and Political Machines in Southeast Asia (Cambridge, 2022)—numerous articles, and a dozen edited or co-edited volumes, she addresses issues of social mobilization, civil society, and collective identity; electoral politics and parties; and governance, regime change, and institutional reform in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and Singapore. She co-edits the Cambridge Elements series on Southeast Asian Politics & Society.

Meredith L. Weiss

Duncan McCargo is Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. He works on the comparative politics of Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. His most recent books are Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand (Cornell 2019) and Future Forward: The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party (with Anyarat Chattharakul, NIAS Press, 2020). 

Duncan McCargo

Participation via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 675 2137 5181

Passcode: 079932