IN THE NEWS: Prof. Joseph Wong on Democratization in Asia

March 4, 2014

Recently The Malaysia Star, Malaysia’s most-read English language newspaper, published an article discussing the work of Professor Joseph Wong.

joe-wong-13_05_09Wong co-authored an article with University of Chicago Political Science Professor Dan Slater discussing democratization in developing Asia. The article, which discusses current and past authoritarian regimes, argues that  “some of the strongest authoritarian parties in the world have not resisted democratization, but have embraced it”. Wong and Slater argue that the primary goal of most authoritarian regimes is to stay in power, and sometimes this involves conceding democratic reform: “their raison d’etre is to continue ruling, not necessarily to remain authoritarian.”

Their argument goes on to propose that certain authoritarian regimes have initiated the process of democratic reform to quell both domestic and international concerns and yet still maintain political control and stability. Elections are a prime example of this phenomenon: “Democratization requires that ruling parties hold free and fair elections, but not that they lose them.”

To read the full article click below (note: you will need an active U of T account to download the article):

Wong and Slater. “The Strength to Concede: Ruling Parties and Democratization in Developmental Asia”. Perspectives on Politics 11(3).


ZainahAnwarThe Malaysia Star column, written by Zainah Anwar, points out some historical examples that strengthen Wong and Slater’s argument:

“TAIWAN, South Korea and Indonesia were once ruled by authoritarian regimes. And yet the dominant ruling parties of all three countries successfully chose the road to democratisation and still won elections.”

Anwar indicates that the Barisan National party, the ruling party in Malaysia, may be able to adapt this model and still thrive. “Slater and Wong’s findings are clear. The empirical fact is ruling parties that face up to their weaknesses and reform can concede democracy without conceding defeat.”

To read the full article click below:

The Malaysia Star – To change or not to change