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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…)

No change for Malaysia? January 27, 2009

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

badawianwarThere is a mood of anticipation over the world as Barack H. Obama (as I now understand we should call him) has taken his seat in the Oval Office. This mood of anticipation and great expectation of change is not unlike what had the opposition movement in Malaysia whipped up last year when Anwar Ibrahim made his comeback into Malaysian politics. But did change never come?

September 16 2008, the opposition movement’s new national day, was announced to be the day the roots of the Malaysian establishment would shake and mass defections from the government coalition would be announced. The blogging community and opposition coalition leaks had the tally at more than 30 MPs ready to jump sides, and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition ready to sweep in and take power. But the day came and went with out much of the announced ruckus. Certainly no mass defections. (more…)

10-minute guide to Malaysian Politics: A foreigner’s view October 7, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , 4comments

Malaysian politics are fascinating, but as with any country not easy to understand unless you’ve studied them. I’ve had a keen interest in Malaysia for a few years, so I’ll try to sum up the most important things you need to know to follow what’s going on. This reflects my understanding of things, which I admit may be flawed. Please comment on any mistakes you believe I have made. Also a word of caution: Wikipedia articles on these subjects have occasionally been contaminated by “jokes” or partisan statements and should be used with caution. (more…)

Anwar Ibrahim returns to the Malaysian parliament August 29, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , 2comments

Anwar Ibrahim, former “crown prince” of the Malaysian government party UMNO – for many years convicted to exile form Malaysian politics, is now set to return to the Malaysian parliament after winning the by-election in his home constituency of Permatang Pauh in the Malaysian state Penang (Pulau Pinang). He fills a parliamentary seat left open by the withdrawal of his wife. The election came as no surprise to anyone, but is extremely significant, as it shows an Anwar who is back on his feet and once again leading the opposition after being removed from power by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (you can read more about that in the post “Sex, Lies and Capital Controls” from this blog).

To many, Anwar Ibrahim’s arrest and conviction on charges of corruption in 1998 was seen as a decisive victory by then prime minister Mahathir. Likewise, it was by many (my self included) seen as a decisive crackdown on the call for democratic reform by the power of Malaysian autocracy. Anwar’s real return to politics this week turns that short term victory into a long term setback. Not only has Anwar personally been able to return to a position of leadership, but his political ideas of “reformasi”) are still alive, represented by his party Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Justice and are now strongly represented in the parliament. Strong enough to take away the parliament 2/3 majority that the government coalition Barisan Nasional (of which UMNO is the most prominent member) has held since the country’s independence in 1957. (more…)