Party Politics and Historical Progress

The Temasek Review, an independent online newspaper out of Singapore, puts the sea change in Japanese politics in the region's larger historical and political context:

In the aftermath of World War 2 in 1945, most Asian countries are ruled by dictatorships or one dominant party, but as their economies develop and the people become richer, the regimes collapse one by one with autocracies replaced by multi-party democracies.

In 1997, former political dissident Kim Dae Jung won the South Korean presidency, marking the first transfer of government between parties by peaceful means. In the same year, upstart Thai Rak Thai Party led by Thaksin Shinawarthra knocked off the decades-old Democrat Party from the Thai government.

Three years later in 2000, Taiwanese opposition leader Chen Shui Bian won the presidency, ending 41 years of Kuomintang (KMT) rule on the island. In 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won the Indonesian presidency which consigned the ruling Golkar Party into the political fringes where it remains today.

Just last year, the Malaysian opposition stunned the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition which has ruled Malaysia continuously for 52 years since independence by winning an unprecedented 82 seats in Parliament. Since then, it has been on the ascendancy, winning 7 out of 8 by-elections.

In the early stages of nation-building, a strong government dominated by one single party may be desirable or even needed to ensure political and social stability. However, as the citizenry become more prosperous, educated and aware of their political rights, there will definitely be calls for the political landscape to be liberalized. A two-party system is the future of enlightened politics, not a obsolete one-party state.

If the development of a two-party system under the conditions of a stagnant one-party state is a sign of vitality and health, does it not stand to reason that third party and independent activism would invigorate a politics ossified by the structures of an antiquated two-party state?

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