Other obstacles to democracy are Chinaâs rise as an economic power and increasing inequality among the people. âChina is a negative force for democratic change with its steps to prevent UN blockages of Myanmar and reducing conditions for international aid by filling in the gaps to extend grants without asking much in return,â she explained.
The five opportunities for democracy in Asia are liberation technology, youth surge, increasing deliverable demands, greater political Islam contestation, and decline in state patronage.
She said as political parties weaken in their exchange, the Internet gives a âlevelling of the playing fieldâ, and in many authoritarian countries, the Internet opens up opportunities to discourse. Dr Welsh stated that younger voters are meanwhile changing the dynamics of the election as each election has 15-20% new people, while rising younger candidates demand for inclusion.
She shared that new types of technology are gaining popularity as the structure of voters change, and cause changes even within the political parties. âParties that donât bring in new younger people are fragmented. Most political parties in Malaysia have their engagement gap with the younger population. They donât connect, and donât understand.â
Dr Welsh also mentioned entrenched corruption in campaigns, government distribution and in service delivery, with people increasingly demanding better service and engagement, and how Islamic parties are globally engaging in internal debates about democratisation and are now including women members.
Lastly, she highlighted the decline in state patronage and rise of issue-oriented campaigns. âAs the economic pie is contracting and parties have less funds to dole out for money politics, they are forced to focus on issues.â
Dr Bridget Welsh is an Associate Professor in Political Science at Singapore Management University. She is a Southeast Asia Advisor to Freedom House, and regular contributor to Malaysiakini.
About 70 people attended the talk organised by the Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) and chaired by DAP National Vice Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim.