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Going through the democratic motions in Southeast Asia

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In Southeast Asia there is rising expression of the right to be heard to address grievance or to change policy of government in a desired direction. Although this might have been ignored in the past, by repressive means if deemed necessary, it has become increasingly difficult to push back or aside the wave of such views that today find convergence in a marketplace that engages a global constituency of shared ideas facilitated by civil society organizations and, most importantly, by information and communication technology (ICT). There is a distinction that needs to be made between fulfilment of the principles and practices of liberal democracy on the one hand, and activism in the democratic process on the other, the latter comprising at the one end participation in a large marketplace of expression of views and at the other an experience of concentrated new forms of securing support in electoral contest. It must be borne in mind the principles and institutions of liberal democracy could be absent or limited in the political system, and yet there may be animated activity in the digital sphere of a truncated democracy. Such intense activity in the new media could still come to be dominated by the ruling rich and powerful who already control the conventional media. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

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