AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 565

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Session 565: Votes for Power in Southeast Asia

Organizer: Masaaki Okamoto, Kyoto University, Japan

Chair: Wataru Kusaka, Kyoto University, Japan

The purpose of this panel is to illustrate the development of new political strategies toward the masses in the semi-and post-authoritarian states in Southeast Asia. There is no doubt that the voters as masses are becoming an essential political power in most of the Southeast Asian countries. The machine politics seems to be weakening its political meaning and the number of swing voters is increasing. It is clearly shown by the fact that UMNO (United Malays National Organization), one of the most consolidated political machines in Southeast Asia lost its votes drastically in the 2008 general election in Malaysia. With this changing political landscape new political strategies have become keys to win the election. The strategies include creating the marketable candidates, making a populist direct appeal to the voters, and utilizing the polling institutions to identify the voting behaviors. This panel is to analyze the effects of these strategies by focusing on the current political landscapes in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The first paper will discuss the weakening political machine of UMNO in Malaysia and its high-handed approach to regain the power. The second paper will discuss the increasing power of emerging polling institutions and their limited validity in Indonesia and Malaysia. The third paper will focus on the political ad companies and see their strategies to create the “marketable” parties and candidates in Indonesia. The final paper will present the different populist discourses during the presidential election in the Philippines in 2009 and will argue their limit for achieving the deliberate democracy in the Philippines.

Approaching an End of Politics of Reward and Punishment?: Elections and Malay-Ethnic Politics in Malaysia
Motoko Kawano, Independent Scholar, Japan

Under the hegemony of the United Malay’s National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia has accomplished successful political stability, economic progress and social harmony through implementing policies such as the New Economic Policy. Many assumptions have been provided the basis for understanding and explaining Malaysia’s harmonious inter ethnic relations for the last fifth years. But, The 12th Malaysian general election in March 2008 produced a result that has since changed the political condition and foresight of the country. This presentation will examine the contours of the contemporary landscape of Malaysian politics while considering the impact of this general election, focusing on politics among the majority ethnic group Malay. In particular, it will examine 1) How UMNO has fought the election campaigns for being on a winning steak? 2) How UMNO has used the politics of reward and punishment, and Malay communities have received these politics? 3)Will UMNO approach an end of politics of reward and punishment?

"Swing Voter Politics in Malaysia and Indonesia: The Play of Opinion Polls"
Akiko Morishita, Monash University, Malaysia

For politicians in contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia, winning over swing voters, especially in urban and semi-urban areas, is crucial for victory in elections. The swing voters, mainly comprising the new middle class group emerging from rapid economic development, are not easily persuaded by promises alone. Political parties are also slowly finding out that crude methods of persuasion used by any authoritarian system no longer function well to gain the support of a good number of voters. The politicians now seem to feel the need to grasp public opinion trends in an uncertain political environment. They are inclining towards tailoring their policies and political campaigns based on findings of public opinion surveys, more so when elections are approaching. In my presentation, I will like to discuss the role of opinion polls in Indonesia and Malaysia, focusing on how institutions conducting such surveys were formed and how the surveys are conducted. I will also be touching on to what extent the survey results affect and are affected by political influences as well as compare the findings of a survey to actual voting trends during elections.

The “Invention” of Parties and Candidates: The Ad Business and Image Politics in the Democratized Indonesia
Masaaki Okamoto, Kyoto University, Japan

With the deepening of democracy, the election is becoming a standard rule of the political game for power in Indonesia. After the fall of authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998 and the end of the following violent conflicts, Indonesia has succeeded a series of general elections in 1999, 2004 and 2009 and the direct presidential elections in 2004 and 2009. Since 2005, even the direct local head elections for provincial governor, district head and mayor have been introduced. Surprisingly, most of these elections were held rather peacefully. The political violence has become less and less popular way of wrestling power. Instead, the “image” politics (politik pencitraan) has increased its importance and the ad business dealing with this image politics has emerged as a profitable business. The ad companies are creating the political advertisements on TVs, radios, and newspapers for the parties and candidates. Some of the companies are quite well versed in the marketing strategy and even advise the candidates about the behavior in front of the journalist and voters and the clothes to put in different occasions. The current speaking style of Yudhoyono might have not been possible without the advice from an ad company. The “Jusuf Kalla” in the 2009 general election is totally different from the “Jusuf Kalla” in the 2009 presidential election partly because different ad companies created his ads. This paper is focusing on the marketing strategies of these ad companies and show the extent to which these companies have invented the “images” of parties and candidates and the impact of these invention on the democratization in Indonesia

Pitfalls of Moral Politics in the Post-Marcos Philippine: Contested Border of “Civil” and “Uncivil”
Wataru Kusaka, Kyoto University, Japan

It is believed that moral “citizen” is a democratic force that can reform the unequal socio-economic structure in Philippine where oligarchic rule persists. Yet, the concept of right “citizen” is double edged as it constructs wrong and illegitimate “non-citizen” as other. The division between “civil” and “uncivil” tends to coincide with the class cleavage as the neo-liberal ideology divides the middle class that can contribute to the nation’s economy, paying certain amount of tax, and the poor that depends on redistribution or “doll-out.” Since majority of the population is the poor, their votes are a decisive factor in elections. Problem is that “citizens” tend to consider populists who appeal to the poor and their votes to be “uncivil,” and react in anti-democratic ways despite their moral discourses. In 2001 the “citizens” composed of the middle class, the Catholic Church, the business sector, and the left exercised the extra constitutional mobilization and ousted the president who enjoyed strong support from the poor. In the 2004 and 2010 presidential elections, “citizens” supported oligarchic elites to defeat the candidates who employed the discourse of populism that focused on inequality in the society. Oh the other hand, frustration of the poor is increasing because they feel their voices are not heard. I suggest that deliberation on public issues beyond the barrier of public sphere between the middle class and the poor is important to transform the moral conflict between “civil” and “uncivil” into a conflict among different but legitimate forces that can be negotiated.