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Cleavages and Voter Mobilization in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and Malaysia in Comparison


  • Andreas Ufen


The party systems of Indonesia and Malaysia are characterized by conflict patterns that can be analyzed with the cleavage model presented by Lipset and Rokkan. In both countries voters are mobilized on the background of fundamental divides. In Malaysia, voter mobilization takes place along these divides but also – with reference to the ruling party coalition – by means of patronage politics, the usage of state-controlled mass media, and a powerful administrative machinery. The politicization of specific conflicts has to be seen against the backdrop of reinforcing cleavages. In Indonesia, the politicization of cleavages is also important. But, in contrast to Malaysia, the divides are not so conspicuous because of cross-cutting cleavages and a tendency by political parties to form cartels. Political platforms are rather nebulous and do not offer policy alternatives. Instead, the attachment to certain social milieus and ideologies are addressed. Whereas in Malaysia cleavages are clearly mirrored in the social composition of party activists and supporters, in the political platforms of parties, and the way they build coalitions, there is a disconnection in Indonesia between rhetoric and realpolitik.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Ufen, 2008. "Cleavages and Voter Mobilization in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and Malaysia in Comparison," Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 27(1), pages 67-84.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:soaktu:v:27:y:2008:i:1:p:67-84

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