Political Dominance and Decline in Malaysia: The Monetisation of Consent

Johan Saravanamuttu

The Monetisation of Consent and its Limits: Explaining Political Dominance and Decline in Malaysia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1569710) is an article authored by Johan Saravanamuttu of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Maznah Mohamad of the Department of Malay Studies and Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

The abstract states:

Maznah Mohamad

Malaysia’s 14th General Election in 2018 toppled the Barisan Nasional government after six decades in power. Barisan Nasional’s longevity was due to its performance legitimacy and a capacity to manipulate electoral mechanisms. However, it was the use of money in eliciting consent that led to a political change. This article traces how sustaining the dominance of the Barisan Nasional under Najib Razak used a strategy which we term the monetisation of consent. However, when monetising consent loses its efficacy, political dominance is challenged. We discuss why and how manufacturing consent through the use of money has its limits when regime legitimacy is challenged. Intense political competition on the electoral terrain from 2008 and the multiplication of Malay-Muslim political parties induced Najib’s greater personal grip on state funds to gain political support. This resulted in the Najib regime’s kleptocratic turn. Beyond the disbursement of largesse to political power brokers and business elites, his government monetised consent as a populist strategy. The reduced efficacy of electoral manipulation made the monetisation of consent imperative for regime survival but the use of money and unpopular fiscal policies, which deprived citizens of disposable income, led to a legitimacy crisis and the Barisan Nasional’s defeat.

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