Autocrats vs The People Authoritarian Populism In Malaysia


Given the current debate around populism it is perhaps unsurprising that I have been prompted to revisit this topic and update my now 20-years old publication. Over the last year, others have urged me to do so, and early in 2017 I was invited by Edelman Trust be a panelist in a dialogue that looked through the lens of populism at their 2017 findings on the current levels of trust in the Malaysian State.



In October 1987, an epochal event occurred  in Malaysia. More than 100 people were detained without trial, many of them for their struggle to institute democratic norms. With these arrests, termed by Mahathir Mohamad’s governments as ‘Operasi Lalang’, the opposition was decimated, ruling party dissidents were kept in check and the activities of NGO’s curbed.