The Defeat of Barisan Nasional

In a new review at JCA, Ross Tapsell looks at The Defeat of Barisan Nasional: Missed Signs or Late Surge? co-edited by Francis E. Hutchinson and Lee Hwok Aun and published by Singapore’s ISEAS Publishing.

As Tapsell notes, “Malaysia’s 2018 elections (or GE14), saw a change of government for the first time in the country’s 60-year history and has proven to be rich material for scholars.”

The book’s 23 chapters are organised in four sections: Campaign Dynamics, Interest Groups, States and Personal Perspectives. The latter is written by politicians from a range of parties. Tapsell observes:

The compendium-like Defeat of Barisan Nasional is a detailed, thorough and sober account of the election and will no doubt serve as a reliable guide “on the various factors behind shifts in voter sentiment” (481). The sub-heading question of “missed signs or late surge” matters because if scholars and pollsters “missed” important trends in voter sentiment, this book will provide technical answers for political scientists and others to explore further in the future. A “late surge” exonerates the commentariat somewhat, yet the reasons behind the “late surge” are trends which are happening globally, including micro-targeted messaging via WhatsApp and large crowds at rallies in the final days of the campaign.

He concludes by noting that the Barisan Nasional’s:

fall in 2018 is perhaps the signal of Malaysia moving from a clear-cut “semi-democracy” to a more “complicated democracy” – and it is increasingly difficult to predict where it will move to next. This book thus allows for a trove of material to mark the beginning of this political shift.

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