The Atlantic

What Democracies Can Learn From Malaysia

Sometimes the real promise of the system is simply the power to remove leaders.
Source: Sadiq Asyraf / AP

What is democracy for? This might seem like an obvious question. Yet disagreements over democracy’s ends are multiplying in the West, including in the oldest, most advanced democracies. Those disagreements include the question of whether democracy is an end unto itself or a means to something greater.

Is it possible that the United States and Europe might learn something from Malaysia, a country long seen as a flawed semi-democracy?

In this month’s elections, the ruling United Malays National Organization, as part of the National Front coalition, lost its hold on power for the first time since Malaysia won independence from the British in 1957—Mahatir Mohammed has the long-serving Najib Razak as prime minister. In an unusual twist,. This week, he walked out a free man after receiving a . He may eventually the country’s prime minister.These events were a reminder of a different kind of democratic euphoria, offering a stark contrast to the pessimism that citizens of Western countries have by now grown accustomed to. Elections do, in fact, have consequences.

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