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Malaysian ruling coalition remains in power May 5, 2013

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment

The Malaysian ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) seems to have managed to remain in power after today’s general elections, having at least passed the mark of the 112 necessary seats necessary to retain their parliamentary majority, reports Al Jazeera. The Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reports the number to be 133 at the time of writing this, with 6 seats left to be decided. I haven’t seen the aggregate voting numbers yet, but I expect PR may very well have gained a vote majority, despite not having captured the sufficient number of parliament seats. This because they are strong in the population dense urban areas where more votes are necessary to gain a seat in the single seat first-past-the-post voting system.

Prime minister Najib Tun Razak has made statements that he wishes to embark on a “national reconciliation process” to work against extremism towards a more moderate environment in the wake of the election. What this means, remains to be seen. BN has a rather dubious history when it comes to “measures” for national unity, traditionally not having been shy to employ authoritarian measures to quell opposition. Whether this will be the result also this time remains to be seen.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim fuelled public suspicions beforehand by claiming that only fraud could keep the opposition from winning the election. Social media are currently abuzz with various claims of fraud. The government is accused of everything from direct ballot stuffing to flying in foreigners and issuing last minute citizenship credentials to win closely contested rural districts. On Facebook a “blackout campaign” replacing profile images with a black square has been started, pointing to the “miraculous blackouts” allegedly ensuring BN’s victory. The opposition leader himself has made claims about multiple occurrences of “phantom voters” through his official Twitter account @anwaribrahim, and appears not to accept the result.

While the government coalition seems to have won this round, halting the progress of the opposition movement, whether legitimately or not, they do not seem to have managed to improve their position in parliament, losing a few seats to the opposition compared to the last general election in 2008.

An “Arab Spring” for Malaysia? May 5, 2013

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment

Yes, I know. Malaysia isn’t an Arabic country, and the current Malaysian regime is far from the former regimes of Libya and Egypt. Nevertheless, today’s general election in this Muslim majority South-East Asian country could possibly be a pivotal point with several similarities to the Arab Spring, and with a peaceful transfer of power, could possibly make it a beacon for the fledgling regimes further west.

When Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain in 1957, one of the conditions for the transfer of power was that power had to be shared between the major ethnic groups: The Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. The Party Perikatan (Alliance Party), later to become the Barisan Nasional (National Alliance), was the response – a coalition of the main political organization of each of the three groups, namely United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). This nationalist conservative alliance, led by the UMNO has ruled the country since, with fifty years of consecutive two-third majorities in parliament until 2008, when the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance under the leadership of former UMNO deputy head Anwar Ibrahim seized almost half the votes (but far less than half the seats due to a first-past-the-post electoral system).

The maximum term length for the Malaysian parliament is 5 years, so the Prime Minister finally had to dissolve parliament and call for new general elections now. To name an election “historic” is an abused trope, but in this case it has all the makings for becoming a pivotal moment in Malaysian history. Either as the election where BN lost its marjority for the first time, the election where PR lost its momentum and failed to gain the majority, or something else entirely. (more…)

We killed the bastard! Let’s party….? May 2, 2011

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, World politics , 2comments

So, Osama bin Laden is dead. The most hated man in the western hemisphere has been brought down. Justice is served. Or is it? If we take a step back from the thrill of the moment and examine the facts, what has really happened here?

United States’ agents have localized and killed a foreign national on foreign soil, then recovered his body. This man is accused of committing serious crimes against humanity, but no attempt was made to capture him alive and put him on trial. The president of the United States has acted as both prosecutor, judge and jury with the US Navy Seals as executioners. Despite this, President Obama freely owns up to his achievement, without even an attempt at explanation as to why the killing was necessary. Official word from the US Government is also that the mission was to kill It also seems that the aim has been to kill him, not a serious attempt to capture. And the rest of the western nations applaude. Including Norway’s prime and foreign ministers. And the people of the United States (and to a lesser degree in Europe as well) celebrate. Celebrate the killing of another human being.

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Gore and Wolfowitz on Anwar Trial August 4, 2010

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The Wall street Journal today published a joint editorial by Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz  ((Hidden behind paywall at WSJ, so I’m linking to Lim Kit Siang’s publication of the entire piece)) regarding the trial against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. This trial is the latest in a series of various legal actions most likely politically motivated and engineered by the Malaysian establishment to keep him out of Malaysian politics.

Gore and Wolfowitz, pretty far apart in domestic politics have come together in their condemnation and call for action by the American government. They also display some insight into matters in Malaysia and Anwar Ibrahim. Matters in Malaysia are by no means entirely black and white, but the heart of the matter is that abuse of judicial power to undermine democracy is wrong no matter what. (more…)

On parliamentary censorship in Malaysia and the Jew connection April 24, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia , 4comments

I haven’t blogged much the past couple of months. It’s partly because of a busy schedule and partly because of a severe case of writer’s block. A holiday to my old stomping grounds in Malaysia and Pulau Langkawi where I once attended sekolah menengah (Malaysian high school) has inspired new interest in writing about the country.

Malaysia has a parliament and elections, but it is nowehere near being a working democracy. This week they have once again proven this with the censorship of MP and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar now faces possible suspension from parliament over a comment made during one of its sessions. He claimed that the nationalist campaign 1Malaysia, intended to boost national unity, is somehow related to Ehud Barak’s 1999 political campaign One Israel. The relation is the PR firm APCO that allegedly has been working for the government coalition Barisan Nasional. (more…)

Anwar Ibrahim on trial for sodomy again February 7, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia , add a comment

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was today back in the courtroom for trial on charges of sodomy, a very serious offense in the Muslim-dominated Malaysia. The prosecution claims to have rock sure technical evidence, Anwar and his supporters claim this is a high-level government conspiracy to discredit the opposition movement. Whatever the truth, both sides of the political fence in Malaysia has much on the line in this trial.

Similar charges in 1998 led to Anwar being sacked as s deputy PM, imprisoned and quarantined from politics – also being the decisive blow against his economic reform program1. It may have been a pyrrhic victory for the sitting regime as it also served as a rallying call for the opposition eventually leading to the creation of the current opposition coalition where such diverse parties as the Islamist PAS and the socialist DAP stand reasonably united with Anwar as their leader.

In the previous round, the allegations against Anwar were by many seen as a decisive low blow by a hegemonic leader (Mahathir Mohamad) against his reform-oriented deputy who was rising too fast in public popularity . In 1998 Mahathir sat on the pinnacle of a strong pyramid of patronage and media control. He needed to prevent Anwar from getting in the position for a possible hijack of this effective machine. In destroying an internal enemy he created an external one.

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  1. I have previously published a student paper about this in the post Sex, lies and capital controls []

The Massachusetts mess January 18, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Uncategorized, United States , add a comment

The Democrats may lose their supermajority in the Senate. A serious problem for health reform. Several bloggers have opinions on what this may signal that way or the other, particularly since this is a traditionally Democratic seat. Dan Drezner has an interesting take on the real reason why the race has suddenly gotten interesting: Both candidates are apallingly bad.

I quote:

[…]the candidates are God awful.  Seriously, they stink.  Just to review our choices:  Democrat Martha Coakley has a prosecutor’s complex that would make Javert seeem like a bleeding-heart liberal.  She is a God-awful politician so out of touch with  reality that she accused Red Sox hero extraordinaire Curt Schilling of being a Yankee fan (Schilling’s blog response is here).  Based on the ads I’ve seen, her campaign has also been, by far, the nastier of the two.

This leaves Republican Scott Brown, who based on this vacuous Boston Globe op-ed, is an empty shirt with no actual policy content whatsoever.  He was in favor of health care reform before he was against it.  He can’t stand the run-up in government debt, and wants to cut taxes across the board to take care of the problem — cause that makes perfect economic sense.   The one thing he is unequivocally for is waterboarding suspected terrorists.

It would be true political irony if all Obama’s blood sweat and tears over health reform should go to waste because of a mess like this. But that’s politics for you. Part of the reason why it’s so interesting…

Obama’s international relations theory December 12, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, United States, World politics , add a comment

Dan Drezner’s blog at Foreign Policy has a nice blog post about the international relations theory of Obama’s Nobel speech. As a treasure trove for IR lecturers, he claims to have seen clear traces of both Realism, Neoliberal institutionalism, Social construcivism, Democratic peace theory, Feminist IR theory and Human security theory. Personally, I can spot a few of those, but my knowledge of IR theory isn’t quite sufficient to cover them all.

But what is the moral of the story of Obama’s theory mixing? Logical inconsistency? No, that the real world is significantly more complex than what either of those theories portrays it as, and that any government drawing on just one way of analyzing the world has a much smaller toolbox to choose from when trying to understand what’s going on and what to do about it.

Just having an American president that has relaxed the hardcore neo-Conservative thinking of the White House seems to me to be important enough for world peace to justify a Nobel Peace Prize all on its own, regardless of the greatness of his future achievements.

On Fox and Obama October 15, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : United States , add a comment

The Daily beast brings a very interesting editorial piece about the struggle between Obama’s administration and Fox News. John Bathcelor points out that Fox isn’t primarily a news network, it’s an entertainment network that makes money from advertising. And they’re doing that very well right now:

None of what goes on in the evening has anything to do with government. The president and the Congress are discussed as omnipresent villains in a fairytale that begins with a happy kingdom of worthies, introduces an ogre, a witch, and a curse, and then interviews champions to come forward to rescue the frightened children and save the USA. All the while, Ming the Merciless, aka Rupert Murdoch, rakes up the ratings and the bucks.

The worst mistake Axelrod and Emanuel are making by confusing Fox News with the Republican Party is that they are confusing campaigning with entertaining and then letting this mistake blind them to the fact that the White House is for governing, not just staging.

Fox News is not in the news business; it’s in show business. The Republican Party, like its blood kin the Democratic Party, is in the campaign business. The White House is in the government business, though, from the evidence so far, it doesn’t know how to break out of the campaign business.

It all sounds rather logical to me. I’ve never been thought “taking on the media” was a particularly good idea. The winner in this struggle is surely Rupert Murdoch, who gets richer by the hour.

Nobel Peace Prize to Obama October 9, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, United States, World politics , add a comment

nobelprize

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is certainly an unexpected and interesting choice by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On the one hand, awarding it to a person with a nine month history of involvement on the scene of international diplomacy may seem odd. On the other hand, awarding the prize based on work towards international diplomacy and multilateralism must be considered a return to the original intent expressed by Alfred Nobel in his will.

Some critics claim that awarding it to the man that advocated stepping up the military effort in Afghanistan is outrageous. Awarding the prize to someone who has shown himself willing to use military force is however nothing new. Theodore Roosevelt (1917), Henry Kissinger (1973) and Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) are examples of statesmen who aren’t remembered as always being soft when it came to the application of power. (more…)