Joshua Kurlantzick

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In a world struggling with resurgent authoritarianism, Malaysia is a bright spot. In May, the former opposition, led by Mahathir Mohamad, unseated the political bloc that has essentially ruled the country since independence. To do so, Mahathir’s coalition had to overcome widespread gerrymandering, a history of electoral fraud and a repressive preelection climate. The victory surprised observers — including me.

Yet Malaysia’s government is now in danger of frittering away the momentum of its democratic triumph. Malaysian leaders must act rapidly before the country’s more anti-democratic forces reemerge, the opposition fights itself, and the power and popular legitimacy from winning an election fade.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Malaysian prime minister and candidate for the opposition Alliance Of Hope, Mahathir Mohamad, waves to his supporters during an election campaign rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday. (Stringer/Reuters)

Malaysians will go to the polls on May 9 in the first national elections since 2013. Last time, the opposition coalition, headed by Anwar Ibrahim, came close to defeating the ruling coalition, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence. The opposition actually won a majority of the popular vote, but massive gerrymandering, among other factors, ensured the opposition got only a minority of seats in Parliament.

Compared to five years ago, the electoral environment today in Malaysia might seem, on its face, to be even more favorable to opposition parties. Prime Minister Najib tun Razak has presided over years of corruption scandals, most notably the problems in the massive 1MDB state fund, which is being investigated by the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

La próxima semana, durante una cumbre a celebrarse en California, EE.UU., el presidente Barack Obama se reunirá con los líderes de los diez países que conforman el grupo regional más importante de Asia: la Asociación de Naciones del Sudeste Asiático (ASEAN). El evento, la primera cumbre entre Estados Unidos y la ASEAN en suelo americano, está siendo promocionado como una señal del creciente interés que tiene Estados Unidos en el sudeste asiático. La interrogante es si EE.UU., al invitar a todos los miembros de la ASEAN, ha permitido que sus intereses apabullen a sus principios.

La próxima cumbre es la más reciente manifestación de la “estrategia del pivote” de la administración del presidente Obama con respecto al Asia – una estrategia de seguridad nacional que implica un desplazamiento de recursos estadounidenses, tanto diplomáticos, económicos y de las fuerzas armadas, hacia los países de la costa del Pacífico.…  Seguir leyendo »

Let China win. It’s good for America

When Chinese officials announced in 2013 that they would open an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to primarily fund big construction projects across the Pacific, they launched a slow-motion freak-out in Washington. As they went around the world inviting governments to join, Obama administration officials pressured their allies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere not to. The AIIB, headquartered in Beijing, would allow China to expand its influence throughout Asia, the White House fretted. “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China,” one Obama aide complained to the Financial Times after Britain joined 56 other nations in signing up to fund power plants, roads, telecommunications infrastructure and other ventures.…  Seguir leyendo »