Thailand and Malaysia are also characterized as semi-democracies, their respective scores reflecting their achievements in each of the three categories. Thailand's semi-democracy features a constitution that provides important powers to both elected and appointed members of Parliament. Thailand held elections in September 1992 and 1995, with universal suffrage. There was free and open campaigning, but many votes were bought. A coalition of political parties agreed on a civilian prime minister who had been an elected Member of Parliament.
Political parties can act freely, but they are characterized more by personalism and patronage than by formal institutionalization, ideology, or coherent platforms. Army officers continue to wield great influence and sometimes threaten the civilian government unless it meets their demands. One scholar referred to the contemporary Thai regime as "a military-influenced multiparty parliamentary-democratic constitutional monarchy. " (Amitav Acharya, B. Michael; 2001: 102-108) All these factors indicate that Thailand should be considered a semi-democracy.
In Malaysia's semi-democracy, there is an elected legislature and a chief executive freely elected by members of Parliament. The ruling National Front has enjoyed roughly a two-thirds majority in Parliament since 1957. The government is dominated by the United Malay Nationalist Organization, which owns leading newspapers and television stations. Various "security acts" prohibit discussion of important issues, and dissidents can be held without formal charges. (Donald, 2005, 165-85) Malaysia is a one-party-dominant parliamentary regime under a monarchy that rotates on the basis of seniority.
Indonesia and Singapore are considered semi-authoritarian. Singapore's score places it closer to a semi-democracy while Indonesia's places it closer to the authoritarian group. Singapore is semi-authoritarian because a single political party has ruled since independence. (Dhiravegin Likhit. 1992, 44-49) Indeed, the PAP controls almost all aspects of political life, but enjoys a high level of legitimacy because people's basic needs are met. Civil liberties are restricted and the press is censored.
Singapore's rapid economic growth has stimulated calls for more openness, but so far with no results. Indonesia is categorized as semi-authoritarian because its military-dominated government controls elections and is not accountable to the people. Civil liberties are severely restricted. Opposition parties are banned except a few acceptable to the generals. But most Indonesians are freer in their daily lives than citizens of authoritarian states. Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and Brunei rank as authoritarian by every measure we have: citizen participation, electoral competition, and civil liberties.
Burmese have endured a vicious unconstitutional military dictatorship since 1988 when the State Law and Order Restoration Council seized power. Even before then the government had been dominated by generals. Disregard for basic political rights continues in 1995. The press is censored. There is no freedom of speech.
Fear is part of daily life. Three hundred and fifty political prisoners were in detention as of 1994. Peaceful assembly for expression of political grievances is forbidden. (Dent, Christopher M. 2002, 146-65) To appease foreign investors, the government says it plans to liberalize slightly, but as of mid-1990s it has not done so. In Vietnam the policy of doi moi has unlocked the economy. The 1992 Constitution allows private enterprise and inheritance of land rights but stops short of permitting outright private ownership of land. But all political power is still monopolized by the Communist Party of Vietnam. In the 1992 legislative elections only two of 601 candidates were independent of the CPV, both lost. There are few civil liberties, as usual under a Communist regime.
Citizens who oppose the government do so at substantial risk. Laos's authoritarian political system is modelled on that of Vietnam. (Jones, 2004, 140-54) All political power is in the hands of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. There has been some opposition to LPRP policy, but mostly from within the party itself. Laotians do not have freedom of speech, press, or assembly. Laos has imitated Vietnam's economic experimentation and has found that demand for a more open polity inevitably follows. As of the mid-1990s such demands have not been met. (Chua Beng Huat. 1998, 119-23)