Panel 4B – Political Participation (Southeast Asia)


Panel 4B Political Participation–the Geometry of Participation in the face of (Neo)liberal-influenced Authoritarianism (Southeast Asia)

This sub-session of Panel 4 focuses on the strategies developed by civil society, at the national and transnational level, to make their voice heard in the context of increasing governmental authoritarianism, biopolitical disposals, and technological terror. Civil groups react by a variety of actions, including fostering alliance, mobilizing diaspora networks, petitioning, and online militancy.

  • With the renewal of government authoritarian strategies, how do the governed social groups adapt their tactics, objectives, and modes of action?
  • Do these tactics develop in margin from the state institutions, or do they depend on the state’s political space? To what extent do they transform these institutions?
  • How can governmental technologies be hijacked and become tools for social emancipation?


Host institution: LP3ES (Backup: UNDIP)

Chairperson: Astrid Norén-Nilsson (Centre for East and Southeast Asian Studies, Lund University)


Siti Asdiah Masran (University of Malaya, Malaysia) The Global Bersih Movement: Politics and Belonging Among Malaysian Diaspora Abroad

Abstract: This paper draws upon a combination of findings from my PhD research on Malaysian diaspora political participation through media frames analysis, and focus group discussions conducted with Malaysian diaspora in 2017 (in Seoul, Korea) to map the reasons and effects of brain drain for my Master dissertation. This paper argues that the experiences and knowledge obtained while living abroad have encouraged the overseas Malaysian community to cultivate interest and awareness of political developments at home. This diaspora community actively supported Malaysian civil society’s work at home to strengthen Malaysia’s maturing democracy –which resulted in the forming of Global Bersih. Through a description of the activities of Global Bersih in Malaysia General Election 2018, I demonstrate how powerful and instrumental this social movement has been for political inclusion among Malaysians. The movement fostered the sense of belonging among this diaspora -who left because they felt excluded in the first place, along with other driving factors. Global Bersih opens up new opportunities and avenues for inclusion among this community, even when distanced. Overseas Malaysians were able to follow election updates closely and participated in the events which they coordinated and facilitated entirely through social media and related online platforms with the help of the members. While there are growing works of literature in regards to Global Bersih, especially from a social movement perspective, my paper focuses on the relationship and contribution of this movement and the sense of belonging among the diaspora in bringing social change.

Keywords: Malaysian diaspora, sense of belonging, constructive patriotism, political participation, Global Bersih.

Bio & Contact: Siti Asdiah binti Masran is currently a Ph.D. student at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia under the guidance of Dr. Helena Varkkey and Dr. Syed Abdul Razak bin Sayed Mahadi. Siti Asdiah has been interested in social sciences, especially in national policy, human rights, and migration studies since her Bachelor’s Degree whereby she was looking at Malaysia’s policy towards refugees and how the policy affected the lives of the forced migrants staying in Malaysia. Her interest in the field has evolved to a focus on the rising issue of Malaysian migration, especially among professional diaspora abroad. This deep interest, knowledge, and experience have motivated her to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree with the aim of better understanding how Malaysia’s policy is closely related to migration issues among Malaysians.

Video presentation

Wijayanto (Diponegoro University & LP3ES, Indonesia)Cyberterror, academic alliance on anti-corruption and Indonesian democratic regression

Abstract: This article examines the cyber terror on academics who protested the bill on the revision of the law on the Indonesian commission on corruption eradication (KPK) in 2019. Recent scholarships on the current state of Indonesian democratic regression have highlighted the shrinking civic space as one of the prominent signs of the decline. However, how and to what extent the shrinking has also happened in the digital public sphere is still poorly understood. Based on interviews with 16 academics who have experienced cyberterror in the case of the rejection of the bill, our studies demonstrate that there had been cyber terror towards the academics who made alliances through WhatsApp groups and issuing national petitions to protest the bills. This has in turn brought psychological disturbance among them, disorganized their alliance, and significantly weakened the movements. This study further argues that the underlying forces behind the terror were the corrupt oligarchic elites whose existence was under threat if the anti-corruption body remains strong. These findings confirm the latest study on the current state of democracy in Indonesia which is believed as experiencing a decline marked by, among other things, the further narrowing of the civic space and civil liberties.

Keywords: cyber terror, anti-corruption movement, shrinking civic space, democratic regression.

Bio & Contact: Wijayanto is director of the Center for Media and Democracy as the Institute of Research, Education and Information of Economy and Social (LP3ES) and lecturer in media and democracy at Diponegoro University where he also serves as director of the International Undergraduate Program (IUP) in the Governmental Science study program. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from Leiden University in 2019 with a thesis on the biography of Kompas, the oldest and most influential daily newspaper in Indonesia, focusing on the relationships between the newspaper and the power holders across different political regimes. For the last twelve years, he has been working on issues related to journalism, media freedom, corruption, elections, social movements, and democracy in Indonesia. His latest article entitled “Democratic Regression and Authoritarian Practices in Indonesia” was published in the Indonesian Journal of Political Research published by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in December 2020. Meanwhile, another article entitled “Cyber ​​troops, public opinion manipulation and the co-option of digital public sphere in Indonesia” will soon be published as one of the chapters in the edited volume related to digital technology and democracy in Southeast Asia by ISEAS (2021: forthcoming issue).

Video presentation

Yuyun Wahyuningrum (University of Rotterdam, Netherlands)Contesting the State in the Time of Pandemic: Trajectories of Civil Society in Southeast Asia

Abstract: As governments attempt to deal with the many adversities that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, there are alarming regressions toward authoritarian governance. Some governments enforce excessive measures in three ways: restrictions on personal movement, surveillance, and regression in healthcare ethics. However, the pandemic has also sharpened and intensified the importance of organized civil society action in many ways. Living under the pandemic for a year, there are many significant events that happened in Southeast Asia, for instance, the imposition of a state of emergency, elections, and the Myanmar coup, which re-shape the relations between state and civil society, adding to the condition that was established earlier by the pandemic. Accordingly, this paper aims to assess the changing form of state-civil society relationship in the time of the pandemic, particularly in the area of autonomy, participation, partnership, and solidarity, and further investigate if the shifting relations contribute to civil society’s strategy choices, tactics, objectives, and modes of action to engage the state during the pandemic.

By using data obtained from relevant literature, recorded online seminars, and interviewing key actors, this paper argues that the pandemic has reshaped the relationship between states and societies in general. The pandemic has been used by some governments to attack civil society voices, but it has also deepened their presence in local societies and unleashed a spirit of civic empowerment and participation. Some groups have included socio-economic strategy agenda into their tactics to gain traction among the local community by forming an alliance with welfare groups. 

Keywords: COVID-19, civil society, state, relations, Southeast Asia.

Bio & Contact: Yuyun Wahyuningrum is the Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), 2019-2021. She obtained her MA in Human Rights from Mahidol University, Thailand (2007) and now pursuing a Ph.D. at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research deals with the various state engagements with international human rights norms in the context of ASEAN regionalism from the perspective of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL).

Video presentation