Report on the international seminar "Malaysia in Transition"
Oriental Institute’s Southeast Asianist Tomáš Petrů convened an
international seminar entitled
Malaysia in Transition: Towards a “Brighter” Future?, held on October 31, 2018 at the
Academic Conference Center (AKC) in Prague. This event was organized with the aim to discuss the
ongoing “regime change” in Malaysia, triggered by the not-so-expected results of the 14 th General
Elections, in which the long-time authoritarian ruling coalition Barisan Nasional suffered a defeat
after 61 years in power - for the first time in the history of the country.
The seminar was opened by introductory remarks from the convener,
followed by Dr. Hew Wai Weng of the National University of Malaysia, who provided a wider picture,
clarifying the developments prior to the election and the causes of the election outcome, as well
as on the current workings of the victorious opposition Pakatan Harapan (the Coalition of Hope)
under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power after 15 years. Dr.
Petrů then elaborated on the rising influence of China over domestic issues in Malaysia, which
arguably became one of the factors affecting the elections.
The second panel on Islam in relation to the political changes in
Malaysia included two packed presentations: the first one by Dr. Nurul Huda Mohd Razif of IIAS
(Leiden) who touched upon controversial issues such as child marriage and instrusive moral
policing, while Dr. Dominik Müller’s presentation (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology,
Halle) explained the dynamics of negotiations between more liberal and conservative circles in the
new paradigm and also looked into the tensions regarding the LGBT community, who seeks to obtain a
safer position in society, in the face of frequent threats of criminalization and being labeled as “
pervert”. The seminar was organized with the kind support and under the auspices of the research
Strategy AV 21: Global Conflicts, Local Consequences.