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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Consociationalism and coalition politics in Malaysia Mauzy, Diane K.


In this thesis I have examined the "consociational" arrangements used by the political elites in Malaysia, namely the elite transactions and bargaining which occurred in the original Alliance Party system, and especially the refashioning of the formula towards a grand coalition strategy after the May 13, 1969 riots. Primary emphasis has been given to the 1969-1975 period and the leadership of Tun Abdul Razak. Theoretically, the basic approach used is a version of the consociational democracy model of Arend Lijphart. However, I have also made use of the literature on political modernization and coalition theory, especially on larger-than-minimal political coalitions. Empirically, the research is based on interviews in Malaysia in 1974-1975, Malaysian and Singapore newspapers, translations of the vernacular Press, government and party literature, election manifestos, and articles and books related to the subject. The general question posed is: how does a country like Malaysia, with salient reinforcing ethnic cleavages dividing the two nearly-numerically balanced groups, the Malays and the non-Malays, maintain political stability and avoid ethnic violence? In answer, it is maintained that, conceptually, consociationalism can be separated from the condition of "democracy", and that a version of it can operate where there is not a balance of power among the segments. The Alliance practiced one form of consociationalism which followed quite closely the requirements of Lijphart's model, while the National Front practices another form of consociationalism, which deviates from Lijphart's model in being less democratic and more unbalanced, but is still consociational. It is argued that, in a country like Malaysia, the chances of successfully maintaining political stability and avoiding ethnic confrontation are improved when elite consociational practices are used in conjunction with political controls restricting political competition.

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