Bridget Welsh is a Senior Research Associate at NTU, a Senior Associate Fellow THC and a University Fellow of CDU. She analyzes Southeast Asian politics, especially Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia. She is based in Southeast Asia. She is committed to engagement, fostering mutual understanding and empowerment.

Najib’s fear campaign

Taken from New Mandala The Malaysian Prime Minister’s ruthless tactics to hold onto power at all costs demonstrate that he is the one who is most afraid while his people are willing to fight on, Bridget Welsh writes. This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy. For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice.  The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process. Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he...

Donald Trump’s upsetting victory

Taken from For months, I have worried about a Trump victory, and it has become a reality. Donald Trump won the US presidency yesterday. He achieved a political upset that makes this year’s baseball World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs pale in comparison. As they were in Brexit, the polls and pundits were wrong. The dominant image is that this is a victory for racism, misogyny and anger. Americans have been grappling with the decline in global power and rising inequalities. Insecurity and fear have been underlying drivers of angst and despair. The dark forces in America have been growing stronger and empowered, with Trump representing and channelling them to his side. To say the campaign has been ugly would be an understatement. From the onset of the campaign, Trump controlled the narrative and ultimately Hillary Clinton was not able to project as powerful an alternative message. Buttressed by massive media coverage, an effective use of social media (especially when he was not controlling his Twitter account) and a partisan FBI director, Trump won out against the odds. Like the famous Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The campaign however was won...
Launch of "The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia’s dominant party"

Launch of “The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia’s dominant party”

Reviews and comments on the book, “The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia’s dominant party” ─  a collection of essays written together with John Funston, Clive Kessler, James Chin. “Umno’s Two Souls — Clive Kessler,”, Oct 25, 2016. “Ku Li: Umno’s Future...
Redelineation - Containment & Capture

Redelineation – Containment & Capture

Taken from BFM 89.9 Bridget Welsh discusses issues surrounding The Election Commission’s proposal to redraw electorial boundaries in Malaysia. Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.
The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia's dominant party

The End of UMNO?: Essays on Malaysia’s dominant party

Edited by Bridget Welsh, this is a collection of essays on Malaysia’s dominant party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). International academics John Funston, Clive Kessler, James Chin and Bridget Welsh analyse the contemporary history of UMNO, with a particular...

So Close, but Yet So Far: Public Perceptions of ASEAN

Bridget Welsh and Kai-Ping Huang discuss public perception of ASEAN for The Habibie Center ASEAN Studies Program, ASEAN Briefs. Recently compiled survey research shows that ASEAN has a long way to go to strengthen its relationship with the public in Southeast Asia. This conclusion is drawn from the fourth wave of the Asian Barometer Survey (ABS), conducted from 2014 to 2016 in eight Southeast Asian countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.2 These countries comprise the most populated Southeast Asian countries, excluding Brunei and Laos. The fourth wave of the Asian Barometer Survey asked the public how close they were to ASEAN, with respondents having a range of options from ‘very close’ and ‘close’ to ‘not very close’ and ‘not close at all’. What is revealing is not just the connectivity (or rather limited connectivity) to ASEAN, but the countries and communities that have the most distant relationships to ASEAN. Download the full pdf file here.
Latest entries

A Tuesday night in Istanbul

Taken from Most journeys begin with a sense of expectation of arrival at the destination, but last Tuesday – as terror struck Istanbul’s Ataturk airport – the experience was one of rising above expectations. As the world rightly condemns the use of violence against innocent civilians, there is a tendency to overlook the ordinary...

Continue reading »

The June by-elections and the politics of losing

Taken from The by-election results for Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar are in. Umno held onto their seats, and increased its majorities. Given the tragedy surrounding the polls stemming from the helicopter accident in Sarawak last month, the fact that by-elections disproportionately favour those with access to resources, and the reality that these contests...

Continue reading »

Bellwether by-elections – muddied waters?

Taken from BFM 89.9 Bridget Welsh discusses Malaysian politics around the June 2016 Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections.    Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.

Continue reading »

Victory and insecurity: Sarawak results and trajectories

Taken from New Mandala With the ‘landslide’ results of the Sarawak election last week, it would appear on the surface that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been given a political reprieve. His close ally Sarawak’s Chief Minister Adenan Satem secured an overwhelming majority of 72 out of 82 seats, or 87% of the...

Continue reading »

A ‘fixed’ result: Sarawak’s electoral distortions

Taken from New Mandala As Sarawakians head to the polls today, it is important to understand that the Barisan Nasional-created electoral constituencies in the state will significantly impact the result. Malaysia’s non-independent Electoral Commission has staked the system in its favour in how it has delineated and recently redrawn the state’s electoral boundaries. Chief Minister...

Continue reading »

It’s raining money in Sarawak

Taken from New Mandala More than any other state in Malaysia, Sarawak’s elections have been seen to be determined by money. Vote buying and patronage are deeply intertwined in the state’s political fabric, as many voters look at the election period as one of festivity and entertainment. Booze is purchased, and bounty is shared. Projects...

Continue reading »

Stopping ‘change’: Sarawak’s electoral battlegrounds

Taken from New Mandala While the Sarawak campaign may lack dynamism, the nature of the state’s politics has been transforming. Over the last 10years, voting has changed considerably, with more support for alternatives and, importantly, greater engagement in politics. The seats the opposition have won in state elections has moved from two in 2001 to 16 in 2011,...

Continue reading »

‘Same Old’ in Sarawak campaign

Taken from New Mandala As the lackluster 11th Sarawak 2016 election campaign comes to a close on Friday, consistency rather than change has predominated. Most Sarawakians on both sides of the political divide had made up their minds on how they will vote before the campaign began. So far, the campaign has done little to change...

Continue reading »

The WelshGE2015 Poll: Post-Election Insights on Voting in Singapore

In the past few weeks, two important publications have come out. Terence Lee and Kevin YL Tan have published Change in Voting: Singapore’s 2015 General Election and the special journal of Singapore’s GE in the Round Table edited by James Chin. These publications, featuring younger scholars and diverse views, will contribute to scholarly debate surrounding...

Continue reading »