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The political accommodation of primordial parties : DMK (India) and PAS (Malaysia) Marican, Y. Mansoor


This study is rooted in a theoretical interest in the development of parties that appeal mainly to primordial ties. The claims of social relationships based on tribe, race, language or religion have the capacity to rival the civil order of the state for the loyalty of its citizens, thus threatening to undermine its political authority. This phenomenon is endemic to most Asian and African states. Most previous research has argued that political competition in such contexts encourages the formation of primordially based parties whose activities threaten the integrity of these states. This study of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of India and the Parti Islam (PAS) of Malaysia examines an alternative pattern of primordial party development. The DMK and the PAS both sought to define nationality in terms of primordial ties. The DMK's objective was to create an independent Dravidian state by redrawing India's boundaries. The PAS wanted the restoration of Malay sovereignty which involved the elevation of the Malay "community" to the position of a Malay "nation-state". In both India and Malaysia, competitive politics in a federal structure provided arenas in which diverse political forces such as the DMK and the PAS could mobilize primordial identities and make bids for power. The involvement of the DMK and the PAS in the contest for electoral support set in motion a process that led them initially to abandon their goals and then to align with the national ruling parties. Their primordial urges gave way to pragmatic accommodation in the quest for power. This study describes, compares and explains the accommodative outcome in each context.

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