Friday, April 29, 2011

LIGHT OF MALAYSIA - Never say never

In 2010, liberals around the world (including myself) were alarmed to see democracy back everywhere. While Europe and the United States began their decline, the emergence of China seemed to herald an era of authoritarianism. Well, 2011 has reversed the trend. Suddenly, democracy, with all its irrationality and madness is back in vogue literally spreads like wildfire: the immolation of a young man in Tunisia was enough to trigger events and regime shifts in throughout the Arab world.

I do not think the South-East Asia will experience the same adrenalin rush democratic. In truth, the history of Southeast Asia is marked by revolutions mixed results, such as the Reformasi movement in Malaysia and Indonesia, the three successive movements called EDSA [acronym for Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, used to describe the 1986 People Power] in the Philippines and the 1992 democracy protests in Thailand, which have all proved futile or, at least, not powerful enough.

Moreover, Malaysia (and Singapore) continues to nibble on civil liberties and restricting media freedom. That said, the feeling of deprivation and frustration of these people is not comparable (for now) to that prevailing in the Near and Middle East. Yet when I watch the wave of unrest that runs the Arab world, I think the old adage: "Never say never." First, we may suffer an economic shock because of the increase in oil prices and the weak recovery in the U.S.

and Europe, which could affect our economies dependent on exports. Secondly, nobody knows yet whether the monarchy will do better than the republics. The example of Bahrain shows that princes may commit a tragic misjudgment. This wave is democratic the political equivalent of the avian flu? Indeed difficult to imagine how kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan could escape the turmoil.

The Southeast Asia must also listen to his youth. Our political life is dominated too long by gerontocrats operating from behind the scenes. Officials of the Association of Southeast Asia Southeast [ASEAN] must have the foresight to meet these challenges, failing which their governments will be swept by the same fury that swept the Arab street today.

I repeat: never say never.

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