Authoritarian Populism in Malaysia and Judicial Independence

The unexpected come back of Mahathir Mohamad on the Malaysian political stage takes into the spotlight a very old and sensitive query about the likely definitive rising of a peculiar form of Authoritarian Populism. Indeed, Mahathir Mohamad came to power pushing a strong nationalist approach and ideology articulated in his book, then banned, The Malay Dilemma; his political style was characterized by a strong and swinging centralization of power into his office. Among other things and even though Malaysia is ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the Asian country with the most independent judicial system, the latter seems to be at risk in the near future by the systematic attempt to discredit and delegitimize the authority of the judicial branch and to erode judiciary independence. This paper seeks to analyse this precarious issue through an historical and legal perspective since the 1988 judicial crisis to the present Malaysian political context.