Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho

This book documents the search for a workable model of democracy in Asia. It begins with two conceptual chapters that explore the role of electoral democracy as a governance mechanism in the light of other governance mechanisms, then reviews the various forms of Asian democracy, including those that many may consider to be in name rather than in substance, that have been practiced to date, and indicates where these models may have failed or succeeded. Underpinned by extensive case studies, valuable insights into governance and democracy in Asia – arguably one of the most fascinating and dynamic regions in the world – are provided.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Democracy and Governance

Lok Sang Ho and Brian Bridges

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics, public policy, regulation and governance


Lok Sang Ho and Brian Bridges During the past decades since the end of the Second World War many countries in Asia have adopted some form of democracy. In some the struggle for democratization has led to consolidation and freely functioning democracies. In others the path has been marked by reversals and set-backs and frequent changes in style and content. In yet others, democratization, as understood in the West, has yet to occur or has been stifled and suppressed. What is particularly disturbing, however, is that some of the Asian countries that had instituted democracy at an early stage, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, apparently failed miserably economically, while many of the other Asian countries, such as China and Singapore, that until quite recently have not introduced ‘Western style’ democracy apparently have been doing very well and have enjoyed a strong economy and growing international stature. How can this paradox be explained? By focusing on the key concept of governance, this volume, through both the conceptual chapters and the individual country case study chapters, aims to throw light on the dynamics of political development and the realities of policy capabilities across Asia. Democracy is a term which is subject to varying definitions and interpretations. Clearly the ideal model of direct democracy espoused by fifth-century BC Athens is not feasible in the modern world, but modern forms of democracy – all broadly covered by the term ‘representative democracy’ – cover a wide range of formats and institutional patterns. At the most basic...