Seminar: Whither the Reformists’ Agenda: Is the Federation Breaking Up?


About the Seminar

Since the Reformasi Movement of 1998, political developments in Malaysia have taken several striking twists and turns. The 1999, 2004 and 2008 general elections witnessed major swings in voting patterns; in 1999, Malay voters abandoned UMNO and voted for PAS in large numbers; in 2004, BN-UMNO achieved an all-time high in voter support across all ethnic groups; and in 2008, the Opposition garnered a majority of the urban and Chinese votes. Then came the 2013 “urban + Chinese tsunami” where the Najib-led BN experienced its worst-ever electoral performance where it even lost the popular vote.

After the 2013 “Urban + Chinese Tsunami”, there has been a rise in ethnic antagonism and religious radicalism, culminating in Hadi Awang’s attempt to amend the Penal code to make it more “Shariah compliant”. Hadi’s aggressive move to advance the Islamic State agenda split not only his own party but also Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition. A PAS breakaway faction formed Amanah which then went on to establish the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan together with PKR and DAP, and which was later joined by the new party Pribumi, formed by an UMNO splinter group led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed and Muhyiddin Yassin. On the other side, political expediency led to a growing cooperation between UMNO and PAS, ostentatiously in the name of serving Islam.

What are the implications of the new party political alliance of Pakatan Harapan (DAP-PKR-AMANAH-PRIBUMI), and its convenient PAS ally in Selangor State Government, and the UMNO-PAS cooperation in the name of Islam? Are the recent developments merely political expediency or do they signify a fundamental shift in Malaysian politics. Is the two-party system a reality or myth? Will political reforms and the reform agenda wither away? More generally, how will the highly volatile contestation affect the “secular” character of Malaysia’s polity. Is the Federation in danger of breaking up?

About the Speaker

Gan Ping Sieu is the co-president of CENBET, a civil society NGO promoting moderation and good governance. A legal practitioner by profession, he is a senior partner of M/S GAN & ZUL, Advocates and Solicitors.  Mr Gan has been an active politician, both in local and national level. A current Parliamentary Division chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in Johor, he held the Vice President post of MCA from 2010 to 2013.

Mr Gan served as a Senator and Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Sports from June 2010 to May 2013. His other public sector services include serving as a municipal councilor, member of statutory board and an elected State Assemblyman. He is currently a member of the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing chaired by Datuk Minister Paul Low of the Prime Minister Department. A known critic of the ruling  BN government policies, Mr Gan has been vocal in his political views, not least during his tenure as a State Assemblyman and a Deputy Minister of the ruling BN Government.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 24 April 2017.


Apr 25 2017


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2