Breaking New and Controversial Ground?

Democracy in ASEAN

in Democratic Theory
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  • 1 University of Melbourne avery.poole@unimelb.edu.au
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Abstract

Why has “democracy” become a standard reference in the statements and declarations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Discussion about domestic governance and regime types in member states has traditionally been considered off-limits in official ASEAN dialogue. Membership does not require democratic rule, and there are no grounds for suspension or expulsion of a member state due to domestic political circumstances (such as an unconstitutional change of government). Further, the norm of non-interference means that the (politically diverse) member states have traditionally refrained from criticizing each other’s internal affairs. As such, it is puzzling that ASEAN commonly refers to the importance of “strengthening” and “promoting” democracy. The article argues that we should not overlook the diversity of views about democracy within ASEAN. Member states have mostly avoided discussion about how (strengthening and promoting) democracy is defined in ASEAN, because it is a sensitive matter. The article also engages in a critical analysis of the way in which a “democratization narrative” shapes many perspectives on democracy in ASEAN.

Contributor Notes

Avery Poole is lecturer in international relations at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests focus on institutional change in regional organizations, focusing on the case study of ASEAN; comparative regional organizations; Australia-ASEAN relations; and the nexus between domestic political change and approaches to regionalism.

Democratic Theory

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