Political Change in Southeast Asia: Trimming the Banyan Tree by Michael R.J Vatikiotis

By Michael R.J Vatikiotis

Political swap in South-East Asia takes up the talk among those that face up to the strain for democracy and element to unchanging 'Asian' values, and those that think that the charm of democracy is universal.The writer examines the case for either side and concludes that the robust nation should be a fixture of South-East Asian politics for a few significant time to return. more and more shut hyperlinks among the 10 states of South-East Asia tend to strengthen perceptions of a standard tradition and after all publish more suitable defences opposed to exterior cultural impression.

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Muslims demanded a greater say in running the state. The numerous coalition governments of this 1949–56 period were considered democratic, but they did little to implement urgentlyneeded economic and social policies. Sukarno’s solution to the weakness of constitutional democracy was to fall back on tradition. Instead of finding new ways to order democratic life, he imposed top-down control. In what was to become a common excuse for resorting to traditional patterns of authority in the region, Sukarno sought to forge a consensus (citing the traditional practice of gotong royong, or ‘mutual cooperation’) among key elements in society.

The problem is that the term ‘universal’ is so often construed as meaning anything ‘Western’; the implication being that non-Western traditions are backward or parochial. ’ Malraux was vexed by the arrogance of French ‘colon’ culture with its claim of cultural superiority. Not much has changed, except perhaps that non-Western cultures are beginning to challenge that primacy. Samuel Huntingdon’s controversial survey of the post-Cold War world bravely forecasts a new pattern of global conflict. One in which ‘the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations’.

Yet these countries harbour political cultures which draw on primordial, pre-modern customs and often reject imported ‘modern’ ideas. Political leaders in Southeast Asia are often heard praising the virtues of modernisation, yet they demand respect for traditional values of authority and leadership. The blending of tradition and modernity can lead to confusion. Perhaps this is because, as we shall see, pioneering nationalists of Southeast Asia adopted superficial forms of Western government to legitimise their states in the eyes of the victorious allies in the post-Pacific War era.

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