The Emergence of the Federal Court

Malaysia is a fascinating current example of a country moving in the right direction and a high court asserting itself in the transition. For years, the country operated as a dominant party regime with the endemic corruption, occasional brutality, and all the levels of palace intrigue that attends to that form of formal democracy without the core of political competition. In light of some external and internal shocks, the governing party lost control, new political forces emerged, and contested democracy took hold. Into this suddenly opened political space came the Federal Court as well. Yvonne Tew’s book carefully examines the relation between constitutional oversight and political competition. It is a great examination of the tension created as a court emerges, and also how central legal ground rules must be if a democratic order is to prevail.