With populists emulating autocrats from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, free markets are being forced to confront crony capitalism.
One response is visible in the reversal of fortunes of Malaysia and Indonesia. The two nations still wrestle with the politics of ethnicity and religion at odds with the capitalism of market competition. In Indonesia, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Christian who is the governor of Jakarta, is running for office while defending himself against charges of blasphemy against Islam in a country of predominantly Muslim voters. Malaysia’s embrace of an ideology of Malay supremacy and the low interest rates that invite a debt bubble are impediments to a dynamic economy.
But the historic advantage that Malaysia, with just 30 million people, has enjoyed over its Southeast Asian neighbor of 250 million is disappearing amid a barrage of corruption allegations challenging Prime Minister Najib Razak.