Organized Panel Session
In recent years across several Southeast Asian countries, there have been spirited discussions about reform of electoral systems—defined, first and foremost, as the formulas used to convert votes into seats. Decisions about electoral systems are very often critical in shaping both the way that politics is done and the degree to which political systems incorporate (or exclude) historically underrepresented sectors. If designed well, electoral systems can help nurture polities that are more likely to be oriented to positive political outcomes. This panel focuses on electoral system issues in four countries. The Indonesia paper examines the effects of recent electoral reform (from 2004-2014) on women’s political representation. While these reforms did not put primary focus on gender concerns, there was nonetheless an impact deserving of careful attention as it challenges conventional expectations. The paper on Malaysia moves from impact to design, as the 2018 change of government has “opened the door for electoral reform.” It argues for a shift away from the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system to a mixed system combining FPTP with proportional representation. The Philippines paper shifts attention from design to dynamics as it examines the “circuitous” process of reform under the Duterte administration and assesses opportunities for reforming an electoral system that essentially guarantees the perpetuation of ineffectual political parties. The paper on Thailand returns the focus to reform impact as it analyzes the Thai military’s concerted post-2014 efforts to “remake Thailand’s electoral and party landscape”—and their lack of success in the March 2019 election.