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The Dialectic of “Good Governance” and Democracy in Southeast Asia: Globalized Discourses and Local Responses

Author(s): Mark R. Thompson

Journal: Globality Studies Journal : Global History, Society, Civilization
ISSN 1557-0266

Volume: 2007;
Issue: September4;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Keywords: democracy | elite | good governance | Indonesia | Philippines | populism | Southeast Asia | Thailand

Southeast Asia displays a problematic relationship between elitist calls for “good governance” and democracy. While opposing dictatorships accused of mismanagement and cronyism, regional upper and middle class activists invoked the discourse of “good governance.” Yet elitist-led “civil society” later redirected this discourse against democratically elected populist politicians accused of corruption. This dialectic has destabilized democracy in the Philippines and, to a lesser extent, Indonesia, and was a major cause of the recent democratic breakdown in Thailand. Renewed reformism has failed in the Philippines and is in trouble in Thailand, reviving critiques of governance by elites while antagonizing the poor who supported toppled populist leaders. Plagued by patrimonialism, Indonesian democracy remains under less direct threat as its civil society is weaker and a populist challenge has yet to emerge. A brief comparison with Venezuela suggests that the dialectic between “good governance” discourse and populist democratic rule affects other regions as well.
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