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Courts and Democracies in Asia
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What is the relationship between the strength of a country's democracy and the ability of its courts to address deficiencies in the electoral process? Drawing a distinction between democracies that can be characterised as 'dominant-party' (for example Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong), 'dynamic' (for example India, South Korea, and Taiwan), and 'fragile' (for example Thailand, Pakistan ,and Bangladesh), this book explores how democracy sustains and is sustained by the exercise of judicial power. In dominant-party systems, courts can only pursue 'dialogic' pathways to constrain the government's authoritarian tendencies. On the other hand, in dynamic democracies, courts can more successfully innovate and make systemic changes to the electoral system. Finally, in fragile democracies, where a country regularly oscillates between martial law and civilian rule, their courts tend to consistently overreach, and this often facilitates or precipitates a hostile take-over by the armed forces, and lead to the demise of the rule of law.


‘Po Jen Yap's new book is a must-read in the growing literature on the role of constitutional courts in democratic stabilization. Its fine-grained analyses demonstrates that the political power and vulnerability of courts in protecting democratic processes as well as their own independence is not fixed or prescribable in the abstract, but varies with the state of democratization and party contestation in which they operate.'

Stephen Gardbaum - MacArthur Foundation Professor of International Justice and Human Rights, University of California, Los Angeles

‘A fascinating tour through the fraught relations between courts and political power. Professor Yap provides a nuanced account of how constitutional courts in Asia balance precariously between semi-authoritarian dominant regimes and the live wire of electoral politics. A magnificent, sophisticated contribution that enriches our understanding of judicial politics in an era of weak democratic institutions.'

Samuel Issacharoff - Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University

‘Po Jen Yap's analysis of the role of Asian courts in three types of democracies illuminates how the possibilities for effective judicial action in connection with major political issues varies according to the type of democracy in which the courts are located. It is an important contribution to the project of integrating comparative constitutional law with comparative political studies.'

Mark Tushnet - William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard University

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