Bridget Welsh is Associate Professor at John Cabot University, 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 committed to engagement, fostering mutual understanding and empowerment.
"The End of UMNO" book launch - revised edition

“The End of UMNO” book launch – revised edition

  Discussing the revised edition of “The End of UMNO?” at the 2018 ANU Malaysia Update conference with James Chin, John Funston, and Clive Kessler.   Other links Soundbites on UMNO from James Chin and Clive Kessler   “Eerie Times...

Harapan report card: Glass half full or half empty?

Taken from malaysiakini.com Today, Pakatan Harapan faces its 100-day report card. The idea of ‘100 days’ is somewhat arbitrary and any assessment in the early days of any administration should also be treated with caution – including this one. This is especially the case given the difficult conditions Harapan has inherited, not only the financial liabilities caused by reckless spending and serious graft, but decades of erosion in institutional competence and good governance. The problems lie not only with the political system but extend into society where social relations are deeply coloured by race and resentment as well as uneven education and entitlements which reinforced inequalities. Let’s start with the positive, however. First of all, Harapan has shown that it can work together as a new coalition, and it has found its footing. While there have been moments of frustration – immature behaviour from those coveting position they somehow think they are entitled to – the five parties (with Warisan) have worked out many of their key differences and put in place a cabinet that while may lack in experience, is arguably the most talented and clean government in decades. Over the past three months, these officials on the whole...

Cautions from Sungai Kandis

Taken from malaysiakini.com Pakatan Harapan won its first by-election since taking over the government in Sungai Kandis. PKR candidate ustaz Mohd Zawawi Ahmad Mughni defeated (former premier) Najib (Abdul Razak’s) loyalist and Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam. Harapan won with a comfortable majority of 5,830 votes for the incumbent PKR in a straight fight against the biggest loser in the 14th general election – Umno, although there was a drop of 35.5 percent in turnout in the contest, from 49.4 percent from 85 percent. This victory and the lower turnout was expected, but the campaign and results suggest that there are political developments evolving that do not bode well for greater political reform and more inclusive‘New Malaysia’. Return to race First of all, the by-election campaign was dominated by a racialized Umno narrative. The gamut of issues ranged from supposed Christian dominance and Communist conspiracies to alleged attacks on Malay institutions and the community at large. None of these issues was fundamentally new, as they have long been part of the defensive approach that Umno introduced after it scraped through in the 2013 elections. These right-wing attacks combine identity politics with paranoia and feed off the insecurities and fear of...

A turning point for Terengganu?

Taken from malaysiakini.com On Malaysia’s beautiful east coast, PAS is experiencing a sweet honeymoon in Terengganu. On the ground, PAS is similarly receiving the positive energy and goodwill felt in the Klang Valley towards Pakatan Harapan. In fact, one could even argue that Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar’s leadership of Terengganu is seen as one of the most dynamic nationally at the state level. With less resistance to its leadership within the civil service, a young professional team and a focus on economic development for the state, PAS’ new government is working to establish itself. Dr Sam, as he is known, is quickly coming out of party president Abdul Hadi Awang’s shadow, despite being his protégé. The challenges PAS faces in Terengganu are significant. The state’s oil and gas revenue are on the decline. Umno seriously depleted the state funds in its mismanagement, leaving little in the coffers. The sharp disparities between the wealthier south and poorer north remain large. Some of the northern areas around Setiu are among the poorest in Malaysia. There remains a large dependence on government assistance, with a “bantuan” mindset deeply entrenched. There is a large young population in search of jobs, and a deficit of...

‘New’ or ‘old’ Sabah in New Malaysia?

Taken from malaysiakini.com On the streets of Kota Kinabalu, there is open delight of the appointment of one of their own, Richard Malanjum, as the new chief justice. Across the diverse multiethnic mosaic of the state, many respond with the phrase “I feel Malaysian.” Given the continued resentments of unfairness of the federal government that percolate, these sentiments highlight that inclusiveness and appointments based on merit do resonate, much more than the handful of narrow-minded, peninsula-based views featured in the media. Sabahans, in their open and optimistic style, celebrate the successes of their own across communities, as arguably the silent majority in the country does as a whole. The question of the federal-state relationship and treatment of different ethnic communities were very much at the heart of why Sabah voted for Parti Warisan Sabah and Pakatan Harapan parties – and why they not only were critical for the coalition to form the numbers for their majority sworn into Parliament yesterday, but why there is a new Warisan coalition government in the state. While acknowledging it is still early days, this article focuses on whether there are signs of change in Sabah, and suggests that the ‘old’ Sabah will constrain the...

‘New Malaysia’ makes Singapore look outdated

Taken from Nikkei Asian Review Over two months after Mahathir Mohamad’s election in Malaysia, the political reverberations for Singapore show no signs of fading. The new Malaysian prime minister’s reviews of the key water-supply deal with Singapore and of the planned costly high-speed rail link from Kuala Lumpur to the city-state are only visible signs of a different — and more charged — Singapore-Malaysia relationship. The key problem for Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party (PAP) is that developments north of the Johor-Singapore Causeway have exposed vulnerabilities at home. The PAP has become the longest-governing incumbent party in Southeast Asia, and it no longer has undemocratic immediate neighbors. Mahathir’s Pakatan victory mirrors the PAP’s worst fear: its own possible defeat. Worse yet, some of the factors that contributed to the loss of Barisan Nasional (National Front) are also present in Singapore. The first is the challenge of leadership renewal. Over the past three years, the PAP has been locked in a battle over who should succeed Lee, 66, as prime minister, with the fourth generation (4G) leaders on display. Among the leading contenders are Chan Chun Sing, the minister for trade and industry and former army chief, Finance Minister Heng...
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A political storm is coming

Taken from malaysiakini.com In this quiet morning in Kuala Lumpur – after more than two weeks traveling across Malaysia learning from the graciousness of ordinary citizens in the campaign – it is apparent a political storm is coming. Roads were packed with voters going home, resolute and purposeful. Conversations in rest areas spoke of undaunted...

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GE14 – show me the money

Taken from malaysiakini.com Money remains one of the most important facets of this election. The scandal over election financing at the 2013 polls tied to 1MDB is a major campaign issue in the urban areas, and, of course, money is being used to finance this campaign and woo voters, often through direct vote buying. Videos...

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Ambitions in the east coast: Terengganu and Kelantan

Taken from malaysiakini.com The 14th general election can be argued to be a battle for the Malay soul, with Pakatan Harapan calling for a ‘Malay tsunami’, BN rallying Malay nationalism on the ground while promising more ‘goodies’, and PAS pushing its ‘choose Islam’ agenda. Nowhere is this battle more apparent than in the beautiful states...

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A tightening ‘Umno Belt’ in Malacca, NS, Pahang

Taken from malaysiakini.com In GE14, an important area to watch is what I call the ‘Umno Belt’ – the three charming states of Malacca (with six parliamentary seats), Negeri Sembilan (eight seats) and Pahang (14 seats) that collectively make up 28 seats in parliament. The Umno Belt is an important indicator of how strong Bersatu...

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Battle royale in Johor: Determining the future of Umno leadership

Taken from malaysiakini.com All eyes are on the majestic state of Johor, which has been declared a “frontline” state for Pakatan Harapan to win in the 14th general election (GE14). Polls are pointing to swings, NGOs are joining the fray with racialised warnings and on the ground the political combat is fierce, with even the Election...

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Engaging disengagement – the youth vote in GE14

Taken from malaysiakini.com Comprising nearly 40 percent of the 14.9 million electorate, Malaysia’s youth (those under the age of 35) will be decisive in shaping the outcome of GE14. It is fitting that in this crossroads election about Malaysia’s democracy, the young will choose the path ahead. The problem is that for many of Malaysia’s...

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Heavy, hidden hands in GE14: BN’s electoral advantage

Taken from malaysiakini.com It is a given that elections in Malaysia are unfair, but GE14 takes this unfairness to new lows. Malapportionment, gerrymandering, back-door movements of voters, alleged phantom voters, manipulation of regulations, and apparent bias of government officials are seriously discrediting this election like no other. This article looks at the potential impact of...

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Power and place in Penang

Taken from malaysiakini.com Penang is safely in opposition hands, with Pakatan Harapan expected to win a majority of parliamentary and state seats. This does not mean, however, that there are not political undercurrents that are shaping the results. In fact, many seats are competitive, including Permatang Pauh, Anwar Ibrahim’s traditional constituency where his daughter Nurul Izzah...

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This Malaysian election is different

Taken from East Asia Forum Malaysia’s government has dissolved the Parliament to make way for the 14th General Election (GE14). The country will go to the polls on 9 May. From afar, this election seems like a repeat of the last election in 2013, when a polarised electorate was divided over the governance of the...

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