The Misconception of Political Lessons: How UMNO Perceives the Fall of LDP In Japan

Discussion Papers


by Muhamad Takiyuddin Ismail, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid

December 2012


2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Malaysia’s Look East Policy (LEP). This article argues that the strong relationship between Malaysia and Japan is stimulated by symbiotic ties binding together both countries’ respective major political parties, viz. the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). UMNO, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (1981-2003), derived political lessons from developments affecting LDP in Japan. Two forms of lessons may be discerned. First, emulation of Japan’s success in economic development, which become the basis of LEP launched in 1981.
Second, on which our article focuses, lessons from the failure of LDP to retain power twice in 1993 and 2009. Since 1993, DP’s defeat has been a poignant reminder for UMNO to be in alert mode in facing any electoral possibility. When LDP was again ousted from power in 2009, UMNO was a most psychologically affected party owing to the unprecedented setback it suffered at Malaysia’s Twelfth General Elections (GE) of 2008. Yet, although LDP’s reversal of fortunes served as a landmark for UMNO in situating changes to its trajectory since 1999, the analogical reasoning and political lessons applied by UMNO leaders were, to a large extent, flawed. Arguably, politicians frequently do misjudge in analogising between different situations which at a glance seem to be comparable.

Keywords: exports, information technology, FDI

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