Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 08:49 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 08:49 | SYDNEY

Southeast Asia politics: The next generation


Malcolm Cook

30 May 2008 10:04

This year may see the end of UMNO rule in Malaysia if Anwar Ibrahim can attract the required number of turncoats in the fraying Barisan Nasional to gain power, as he is hinting he can.  UMNO and its increasingly weakened coalition partners have ruled Malaysia for more than 50 years, but if Anwar Ibrahim is successful, UMNO may find it difficult to find a younger charismatic leader to help turn the party around and make it attractive again to both rural and urban Malays – the majority of Malaysia. The evergreen Tengku Razaleigh, who even pre-dates Mahathir, is offering himself as a septuagenarian replacement for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. Anwar failed in his 1996 bid to bring generational change to Malaysian politics within UMNO. He may now bring it by shunting UMNO aside.

While the fall of Soeharto a decade ago certainly changed Indonesia to the good, it did not represent a real generational change in politics, as the leading political figures of the reformasi movement and of the major parties in the newly democratic elections – Gus Dur, Amien Rais, Megawati, Hamzah Haz, Akbar Tandjung, General Wiranto and even President Yudhoyono himself — all rose to senior positions during the long Soeharto years. The 2009 elections in Indonesia look like they will feature a very similar cast of graying characters. Wiranto is planning to run again, as is Megawati and Gus Dur and President Yudhoyono. Yet, in 2014, it is likely that none of the leading political figures will be the same and a whole new generation of leaders may come to the front, and through new avenues as well.

Australia has just witnessed generational change in our own political elite brought about through a change of government. Such a change is in the air in Malaysia after a much longer term of incumbency and is on the horizon for Indonesia. I wonder what a future post-Lee Singapore will look like?