William Case, "UMNO Paramountcy: A Report on Single-party
Dominance in Malaysia," Party Politics , 2
(January, 1996), 115-127.
Between closed, single-party systems on one side and
competitive, multi-party systems on the other lies a
category of single-party-dominant regimes. Here, the same
party remains in power for long periods of time, even as it
permits at least some democratic procedures and opposition
party challenges. This intermediate posture - most
conspicuous today in East and Southeast Asia - is beginning
to stimulate some scholarly interest and activist defence.
Scholarly inquiries track the material distributions and
control mechanisms that enable dominant parties to persist.
Activist agendas go further, attributing these parties'
persistence to their tapping correctly the cultural
discipline of Confucianism or the consensual norms of Islam.
Put simply,activists extol dominant parties as culturally
persuasive rather than brutally coercive, meshing with the
timeless collectivism and new partipatory stirrings that
appear to mark societal outlooks in the region.
Figures and Tables:
Today, the UMNO is perhaps at the peak of its power. If it
faces any medium-term challenges, they will, as suggested
earlier in this report,spring from within the Malay
community. They may be exacerbated also by the dilemmas that
arise with economic growth. In particular, if growth
persists - or perhaps even accelerates - it risks
dislocating many Malays instead of steeling their confidence
further, thereby hastening their flight to revivalist Islam.
On the other hand, if growth declines - as one day it must -
sharp factional struggles over the material patronage may
again set it. Moreover, both scenarios involve renewed
Chinese suspicions. But while such challenges would surely
test UMNO dominance, the party's record of political
learning highlights its profound capacity to cope, shaping
national agendas, bargaining with coalition
members,recreating followings and mobilizing voters. And
though the UMNO has never shrunk from strategically using
coercion, what Pempel would find interesting is the extent
to which the UMNO has found other ways through which to
perpetuate its dominance.