The Limits and Potential of Liberal Democratisation in Southeast Asia

Sorpong Peou


This article argues that Southeast Asia is a region where uneven political development presents a theoretical challenge to the study of regime change and continuity in the academic field of comparative politics. Of the 11 political regimes, only Timor-Leste, the Philippines, and Indonesia can now be considered liberally democratic. However, these democracies are far from consolidated. The other eight regimes range from soft dictatorships to electoral authoritarian regimes and illiberal democracies. This article seeks to explain why no single theory adequately explains regime change and continuity in this region. Impediments to democratisation are many – one of which is the fact that traditional and undemocratic institutions remain strong and that transitions to civilian rule remain vulnerable to other powerful state institutions, most notably the armed forces.

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