Several ways of interpreting the Thai ASEAN debacle by mattsteinglass
April 12, 2009, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Asia, democracy, Internet

What are the implications for democracy in East Asia? There are several interpretations possible.

1. East Asia is not suited to multiparty democracy. Not enough people understand or adhere to the distinction between political opposition within the rules of the system and all-out civil war.

2. Thailand is different from the rest of East Asia. There is something about Thai political culture that renders it difficult for the country to maintain stable multiparty governance, but this does not necessarily imply that other East Asian countries (Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines) are not gradually building stable multiparty democracies, or that multiparty democracy is not the way to go for China, Vietnam, Singapore, etc.

3. Multiparty democracy is an increasingly tenuous proposition throughout the world. Partisanship is increasing, and the legal and cultural norms and structures that have moderated political strife between parties are increasingly overwhelmed by mass-media controversy-creation and by internet-based “ridiculously easy collaboration”. In new democracies that have been formed just at the cusp of this new era, the nascent structures of constitutional democracy cannot hold. But established democracies — in the Americas, Europe, Japan and South Korea — shouldn’t just pat themselves on the back, because they will be facing challenges to their political order from these changes as well.


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