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.
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. “Ku Li: Umno’s Future in the Hands of its Members,” The Star, Oct...

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.

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 humanity and heroism that is often present in crises. I witnessed this first hand at Ataturk airport this week. Arriving less than half an hour after the bombs exploded, my flight from Ankara was one of many held on the tarmac. Passengers while expressing shock remained surprisingly calm, and reached out to assist one another, be it to carry a baby stroller onto the bus for a passenger with a tired child in their arms to translating for the non-Turkish speakers who sought information. In serious crises, there is often a sense of clarity of priorities. Upon arriving at the domestic terminal, swarms of passengers awaited directions and assurance. Initially this was not forthcoming, as it was evident that security was more important than service. Police personnel with machine guns were making their rounds, confirming that there were no other threats. Airline staff understandably could...

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 were three-cornered fights with a divided opposition, these results are not unexpected. The important implications of these by-elections lies less in the winning, but in the losing – as the shifts in campaigning, voting and political alignments reveal that old dreams are gone. Malaysian electoral politics is shifting, and all indications are that the direction is not toward a stronger, more vibrant polity that offers meaningful choices to the electorate. Declining engagement At this marker before the next general election, it is important to identity key trends. Importantly, voters are not engaging as in the past. This is evident in the decline in voter turnout. Malaysians are tired of the politicking and turning away from elections. The drop in voter turnout from 2013 was a whopping 14 percent in Sungai Besar and 13 percent in Kuala Kangsar respectively. Importantly voter turnout levels were also a...

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 seats. The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition gained 8.3% of the popular vote, to a total of 63.7% compared to the 55.4% it won in 2011. It would seem that the message sent across the world was that Sarawakians support the BN. They appear to care little for corruption, abuse of power, an electoral system that relies on massive vote buying, gross distortions of electoral constituencies and abuse of political position against opposition alternatives. They were not moved by one of the most serious global money-laundering scandals. In fact, while this may be true for some of the electorate, this reading of the election is not complete. The Sarawak results point to Malaysia’s opposition’s weaknesses and potentially even more debilitating trends ahead, as hope for change through the ballot box is deteriorating. At the same time, the BN ‘victory’ also should be understood of as hollow,...
Latest entries

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.

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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‘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...

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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...

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Not business as usual in Malaysia

Taken from New Mandala.  The formation of an alliance of former foes this month marks a turning point in Malaysia’s contemporary political history. The Citizen’s Declaration opposing premier Najib Tun Razak through peaceful means and calling for political reform was signed by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and leaders of the 1999 reformasi movement who opposed...

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Democratic contraction in Southeast Asia

Taken from New Mandala. 2015 was the year authoritarian governments struck back against democratic pressures. The story of 2015 in Southeast Asia was Myanmar’s November election. In giving the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi a landslide, Myanmar citizens signaled their strong support for democratic change and better governance. These...

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In search of hope for Pakatan Harapan

Taken from Today marks the three-month anniversary of Pakatan Harapan – the revamped opposition coalition that is having difficulty getting off the ground. It is supposed to bring about hope, to galvanise like-minded Malaysians in the spirit of reform and cooperation to offer an electoral alternative. It is failing badly. As the year end...

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