Malaysian ruling coalition remains in power May 5, 2013Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment
The Malaysian ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) seems to have managed to remain in power after today’s general elections, having at least passed the mark of the 112 necessary seats necessary to retain their parliamentary majority, reports Al Jazeera. The Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reports the number to be 133 at the time of writing this, with 6 seats left to be decided. I haven’t seen the aggregate voting numbers yet, but I expect PR may very well have gained a vote majority, despite not having captured the sufficient number of parliament seats. This because they are strong in the population dense urban areas where more votes are necessary to gain a seat in the single seat first-past-the-post voting system.
Prime minister Najib Tun Razak has made statements that he wishes to embark on a “national reconciliation process” to work against extremism towards a more moderate environment in the wake of the election. What this means, remains to be seen. BN has a rather dubious history when it comes to “measures” for national unity, traditionally not having been shy to employ authoritarian measures to quell opposition. Whether this will be the result also this time remains to be seen.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim fuelled public suspicions beforehand by claiming that only fraud could keep the opposition from winning the election. Social media are currently abuzz with various claims of fraud. The government is accused of everything from direct ballot stuffing to flying in foreigners and issuing last minute citizenship credentials to win closely contested rural districts. On Facebook a “blackout campaign” replacing profile images with a black square has been started, pointing to the “miraculous blackouts” allegedly ensuring BN’s victory. The opposition leader himself has made claims about multiple occurrences of “phantom voters” through his official Twitter account @anwaribrahim, and appears not to accept the result.
While the government coalition seems to have won this round, halting the progress of the opposition movement, whether legitimately or not, they do not seem to have managed to improve their position in parliament, losing a few seats to the opposition compared to the last general election in 2008.
An “Arab Spring” for Malaysia? May 5, 2013Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment
Yes, I know. Malaysia isn’t an Arabic country, and the current Malaysian regime is far from the former regimes of Libya and Egypt. Nevertheless, today’s general election in this Muslim majority South-East Asian country could possibly be a pivotal point with several similarities to the Arab Spring, and with a peaceful transfer of power, could possibly make it a beacon for the fledgling regimes further west.
When Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain in 1957, one of the conditions for the transfer of power was that power had to be shared between the major ethnic groups: The Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. The Party Perikatan (Alliance Party), later to become the Barisan Nasional (National Alliance), was the response – a coalition of the main political organization of each of the three groups, namely United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). This nationalist conservative alliance, led by the UMNO has ruled the country since, with fifty years of consecutive two-third majorities in parliament until 2008, when the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance under the leadership of former UMNO deputy head Anwar Ibrahim seized almost half the votes (but far less than half the seats due to a first-past-the-post electoral system).
The maximum term length for the Malaysian parliament is 5 years, so the Prime Minister finally had to dissolve parliament and call for new general elections now. To name an election “historic” is an abused trope, but in this case it has all the makings for becoming a pivotal moment in Malaysian history. Either as the election where BN lost its marjority for the first time, the election where PR lost its momentum and failed to gain the majority, or something else entirely. (more…)
Slow growth creates inequality or the other way around? August 26, 2012Posted by Sverre in : Political economy , add a comment
Through the Twitter account of Gudmund Hernes, I became aware of a very interesting and thought provoking piece by Alexander Stille, based on the work of French economist Thomas Piketty. Titled “The heirs of inequality”, it highlights the connection between periods of slow growth and much economic inequality. Looking at the French economy from 1820 until today, and Scandinavian and American economies today, there appears to be a clear correlation. The causality is less clear. Does slow growth make for worse income distribution, does a poor income distribution slow growth, or are both effects reinforcing each other?
The opposite reaction to terror September 22, 2011Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, Political behavior , add a comment
Norwegian newspapers today report the following: A month after the terror at Oslo and Utøya, a group of researchers from the University of Bergen repeated three of the survey questions they asked Norwegians as part of the International Social Survey Programme, right after the terror in Madrid in 2006. They were amazed at what they found. Norwegians are more sceptical, not less, towards extending police powers of surveillance.
They asked the following questions (english translations from ISSP documentation):
Suppose the government suspected that a terrorist act was about to happen. Do you think the authorities should have the right to
- Detain people for as long as they want without putting them on trial? 2006: 53 % yes – 2011: 50 % yes
- Tap people’s telephone conversations? 2006: 85 % yes – 2011: 67 % yes
- Stop and search people in the street at random? 2006: 58 % yes – 2011: 44 % yes
This constitutes a clear drop in support for security measures that invade privacy and civil liberties, quite the opposite of what we would expect. (more…)
We killed the bastard! Let’s party….? May 2, 2011Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, World politics , 2comments
So, Osama bin Laden is dead. The most hated man in the western hemisphere has been brought down. Justice is served. Or is it? If we take a step back from the thrill of the moment and examine the facts, what has really happened here?
United States’ agents have localized and killed a foreign national on foreign soil, then recovered his body. This man is accused of committing serious crimes against humanity, but no attempt was made to capture him alive and put him on trial. The president of the United States has acted as both prosecutor, judge and jury with the US Navy Seals as executioners. Despite this, President Obama freely owns up to his achievement, without even an attempt at explanation as to why the killing was necessary.
Official word from the US Government is also that the mission was to kill It also seems that the aim has been to kill him, not a serious attempt to capture. And the rest of the western nations applaude. Including Norway’s prime and foreign ministers. And the people of the United States (and to a lesser degree in Europe as well) celebrate. Celebrate the killing of another human being.
Deliberating or quarrelling? Final draft of my thesis. November 7, 2010Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, My master thesis, Political Theory , add a comment
After a long and arduous process, the work on my master’s thesis is finally nearing the end. Here is a slightly adapted version of the introduction, and a link to the print ready version (PDF).
Some of the inspiration for my thesis comes from an article in the student newspaper in Trondheim, Under Dusken, and similar comments over the following years. Political science professor Anders Todal Jenssen insisted that the student democracy in Trondheim lacked legitimacy because of the low voter turnout and that the introduction of political parties would be the solution to this problem. Binding platforms would make student politicians accountable to the voters and increase support for democracy. As a student representative myself at the time, I was provoked. We were proud of the lack of polarization within the student democracy and, although I didn’t know the term at the time, the level of deliberation. This started me on the quest for an alternative to Professor Todal Jenssen’s strong belief in the salience of political parties.
Democracy does of course seem unthinkable without political parties. Almost every democracy is dominated by a system of organized factions that structure, educate and drive the political process forwards. The necessity for such a system is no longer seriously questioned in political science. I do not believe, however, that any institution should be beyond question. Even if we have no intention to get rid of political parties, we should strive to understand the effect they have on democracy. As I will show in this thesis, one such effect may be reducing open and free deliberation among decision-makers. This may be a cost we are willing to pay, but not a cost we should pay without knowing its size. (more…)
Gore and Wolfowitz on Anwar Trial August 4, 2010Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia , add a comment
The Wall street Journal today published a joint editorial by Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz ((Hidden behind paywall at WSJ, so I’m linking to Lim Kit Siang’s publication of the entire piece)) regarding the trial against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. This trial is the latest in a series of various legal actions most likely politically motivated and engineered by the Malaysian establishment to keep him out of Malaysian politics.
Gore and Wolfowitz, pretty far apart in domestic politics have come together in their condemnation and call for action by the American government. They also display some insight into matters in Malaysia and Anwar Ibrahim. Matters in Malaysia are by no means entirely black and white, but the heart of the matter is that abuse of judicial power to undermine democracy is wrong no matter what. (more…)Political economy, Political Science in Popculture , add a comment
Were the Jedi knights enemies of liberty? The political philosophy of the Jedi is explored by both Reason‘s Jesse Kline and Dan Drezner of Foreign Policy in recent blog posts. Kline claims that the main goal of the Jedi was to enforce the big government agenda of the Galactic Republic. Drezner refutes that we actually know too little of the agenda of the republic at all. What we do know, however, is that Palpatine tried to set up a totalitarian state that would surely be anti-liberal and big government.
Drezner claims that we have little information on the pre-Phantom Menace policies of Supreme Chancellor Vallorum, leader of the Galactic Republic. We do however know that the monopolistic and militaristic Trade Federation appears to be at least partially sanctioned by the Republic, as they have their own representatives in the Senate. Vallorum does however appear somewhat opposed to their blocade of trade to Naboo, as he at the beginning of The Phantom Menace dispatches the Jedi to negotiate.Malaysia , 4comments
I haven’t blogged much the past couple of months. It’s partly because of a busy schedule and partly because of a severe case of writer’s block. A holiday to my old stomping grounds in Malaysia and Pulau Langkawi where I once attended sekolah menengah (Malaysian high school) has inspired new interest in writing about the country.
Malaysia has a parliament and elections, but it is nowehere near being a working democracy. This week they have once again proven this with the censorship of MP and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar now faces possible suspension from parliament over a comment made during one of its sessions. He claimed that the nationalist campaign 1Malaysia, intended to boost national unity, is somehow related to Ehud Barak’s 1999 political campaign One Israel. The relation is the PR firm APCO that allegedly has been working for the government coalition Barisan Nasional. (more…)
Law without ethics? February 10, 2010Posted by Sverre in : Human rights , 1 comment so far
The Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet brings a thought-provoking piece this week by professor Hans Petter Graver, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo. In a recent book by novelist Kjartan Fløgstad, the way the law profession went into the service of Nazi Germany is put in a very bad light.
Professor Graver, far from leaping to the defense of his profession actually defends the depiction by Fløgstad, even giving it current relevance by drawing parallels between the reinterpretation of German law to accomodate Nazism and the reinterpretation of American law under Bush to legitimize coercive interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding” or even hitting a detainee in the face or stomach.
He points to a dangerous tendency within his own profession not to take a moral stand, insist there are two sides to every issue and be servile to government. This may be done under the guise of a neutrality necessary for preserving the rule of law even under bad regimes, but it requires ignoring the original intent of the law, ripping the very foundation out from under the system in the process. There are good examples of the law profession participating in the defense against external enemies, but in defending the rule of law against perversion by internal enemies, the historical record is not very good.