De-ethnicisation of Politics in Malaysia

  • Zhe Wei Lau

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis examines how de-ethnicisation of politics takes place in Malaysia. Malaysian politics has been dominated by ethnic politics since independence in 1957, yet currently there are indications that there may be a recent move towards a de-ethnicisation of politics. Although the scenario of de-ethnicisation of politics in Malaysia is still in an embryonic stage, it is interesting to look at how such de-ethnicisation could take place in Malaysia. This thesis applies the concept of de-ethnicisation of politics in discussing the issue. In a context of very limited literature on de-ethnicisation of politics due to a lack of scholarship on de-ethnicisation of politics, this thesis offers a three-dimensional exploration of whether, how and to what extent de-ethnicisation of politics is taking place in Malaysia. These three dimensions comprise party membership, party stance and party electoral strategy. As party membership is determined by party Constitutions, discussion is centred on how the Constitution enables\makes difficult the party from moving away from ethnic politics. On the dimension of party stance, focus is paid to the direction each political party is taking in practising/distancing from (non-)ethnic politics. The third dimension explores on how these two dimensions relates to electoral politics, which inclines towards power politics rather than rhetorical politics. As the main unit of analysis in this thesis are political parties, a qualitative interviewing method has been employed with high-level party leaders who have the authority to speak on behalf of their party. The thesis, then, investigates whether, how and to what extent de-ethnicisation of politics is currently taking place in Malaysia at the level of and in the competition between political parties.
Date of Award25 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJon E Fox (Supervisor) & Tariq Modood (Supervisor)

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