Seminar: Alternatives to Autocracy: A New Paradigm for Malaysia


About the Seminar

2016 was a watershed year for politics globally. Unexpected events, such as the Brexit referendum in the UK and the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections completely upended long-held certainties.

It has been argued that these episodes mean that populist and sectarian politics now have the ascendancy. However, this ignores the rise elsewhere of progressive politicians such as Bernie Sanders and other political figures. Moreover, these movements have a common undercurrent of profound disillusionment with the prevalent economic system.

Such trends matter for Malaysia because the continuous stoking of racial and religious sentiment by the UMNO-BN political establishment means that there is a real risk that extremist political stances and demagogues could eventually enjoy mainstream success, if not already.  However, it can also be argued that tensions in Malaysia’s polity are fundamentally economic in nature.  More Malaysians – of all races, but especially the Malays and Bumiputera that make up most the poor – are being left behind due to the ill-advised, serving policies of UMNO-BN. Young Malaysians are suffering the most, being hamstrung by poor education, crushing debt, increasingly scarce middle-class jobs and soaring housing prices. While the UMNO-BN administration becomes embroiled in more corruption scandals, the Opposition must be able to offer the Malaysian public radical alternatives that addresses these concerns to win power and ensure that the rise of authoritarian populism is stopped at Malaysia’s shores.

About the Speaker

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the People’s Justice Party (PKR) Youth Leader; Selangor State Minister for Education, Human Capital Development, Science, Technology and Innovation; and State Assemblyman for Seri Setia.

Previously, Nik Nazmi obtained his LLB (Hons) from King’s College London and worked as an executive at Malaysian government-linked investment corporation PNB and Private Secretary to PKR Leader Anwar Ibrahim. In 2008, at 26 years old, he was elected as the Selangor State Assemblyman and was the youngest candidate to win in the general elections. He was appointed as Political Secretary to Selangor Chief Minister Khalid Ibrahim, then was appointed as PKR Communications Director. He defended his seat in the 2013 elections and was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly. He was elected as PKR Youth Leader in 2014. When Azmin Ali was appointed as the Selangor Chief Minister later that year, Nik Nazmi was assigned to the State Cabinet.

Nik Nazmi is presently the Chairman of the Universiti Selangor Board of Governors, a member of the Board of Directors of Universiti Selangor, Selangor Foundation and state-think tank Institut Darul Ehsan. He is also a founder and currently Patron of Mentari Project, a voluntary tuition project for the poor. Formerly he was Executive Director of the Open Dialogue Society and a member of the Cross Party Advisory Panel of the Center for Public Policy Studies-ASLI. He is an author of several books in Malay and English. At the moment Nik Nazmi has columns in the Edge Malaysia, Sinar Harian (Malay) and Oriental Daily News (Mandarin).


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 22 May 2017.


May 23 2017


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2