Saturday, March 8, 2008

Setback for Malaysia's ruling coalition

Malaysia's ruling coalition wins simple majority, down from 90% majority in the last Parliament. This should make Badawi quit his position in the front.


March 9, 2008
Malaysia’s Governing Coalition Suffers a Setback
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s governing coalition, which has run this multiracial country without any major challenges for the past four decades, suffered a string of election defeats on Saturday, losing control of three major states and all but surrendering urban areas to the opposition.

Results early Sunday showed that the coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi won 136 of 222 seats in Parliament, enough to be able to remain in power. But unexpectedly strong gains by opposition parties, which quadrupled their seats in Parliament, are likely to challenge the longstanding paternalistic practices of a government that controls the mainstream media, bans most street protests, bars students from taking part in politics and jails political opponents without trial.

Stripped of their long-held two-thirds majority in Parliament, the governing coalition will no longer be able to freely amend the Constitution, which it has done more than 40 times since independence from Britain in 1957.

Anger among ethnic Indians and Chinese over religious disputes and economic preferences for the Malays, the majority ethnic group, appeared to play a major role in the opposition’s gains.

“I don’t think Malaysian politics will ever be the same again,” said Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister who was expelled from the governing party a decade ago and is now one of the leaders of the opposition. “There is a wave, an outcry for democratic reform.”

The opposition parties unseated several political veterans by fielding fresh but inexperienced candidates, including a political science professor, a popular blogger and a human rights advocate.

Opposition candidates did especially well in urban areas, winning 10 of the 11 seats in Kuala Lumpur, the commercial capital, and capturing the relatively prosperous and populous states of Selangor and Penang. The opposition also made inroads into the rural heartland. The Pan-Islamic Party, one of the three main opposition parties, strengthened its control over the northern state of Kelantan and won control over the states of Kedah and Perak.

Losing control of those states is a blow for the governing coalition because states have jurisdiction over land allocation, local matters and Islamic laws.

Voters showed their anger over a recent government crackdown against ethnic Indians by electing to a state legislature M. Manoharan, one of five advocates jailed after a street protest by Indians. It is unclear how Mr. Manoharan, who is being detained without a trial, will carry out his duties.

The loss of Penang, which alone among Malaysia’s 13 states has a majority of Chinese voters, is a major blow to Mr. Abdullah, whose constituency is based there. The state is an industrial center, producing microchips, cellphones and computer parts in factories owned by Intel, Dell and Motorola, among many others.

The departing chief minister, or governor, of Penang, Koh Tsu Koon, lost his seat on Saturday to a dissident university professor, P. Ramasamy.

The leaders of the two ethnic Indians parties represented in the government also lost their seats, including the only ethnic Indian in the cabinet, Samy Vellu.

Those losses call into question the future of the country’s race-based coalition, a system in place since independence in which each major ethnic group — Malays, Chinese and Indians — is represented by a political party.

Opposition leaders have vowed to move Malaysia away from the system, with the National Justice Party of Mr. Anwar the loudest proponent of the change. Mr. Anwar, who many see as a possible future prime minister, is barred from holding public office until April because of a conviction for abuse of power in a politically charged trial. But his wife and his daughter won seats in Parliament on Saturday.

He said in an interview that he would not rule out asking a member of his party to resign so he can run in a by-election. “I’m not in a hurry,” said Mr. Anwar, whose party won 32 seats, up from one seat in the last election in 2004.

Kuala Lumpur (PTI): Malaysia's ruling coalition Barison Nasional (BN) won a simple majority in Saturday's general elections.

The Front led by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has bagged 112 out of 165 seats for which the counting has been completed, the Election Commission said.

The Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) has secured 22 seats and Islamic Party of Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) 13 seats.

While Badawi retained the Kepala Batas seat, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin won from the Rembau parliamentary seat.

The vote counting is still continuing and the final results are expected Sunday morning.

The Barisan Nasional comprises the majority UMNO (Malay party), Malaysian Indian Congress and Malaysian Chinese Association.

The polls saw a rout of MIC chief Samy Vellu, the lone Indian minister in Abdullah's cabinet. Abdullah's Barisan Nasional held a 90 per cent majority in the last parliament when it had recorded a landslide victory.

However, this elections has seen a historic setback with the Opposition parties claiming victory in five state assemblies.

The Opposition has won the northern states of Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Perak and central Selangor state.

"Tomorrow we will start building a brighter future...This is a new dawn for Malaysia," Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy premier and de facto leader of Opposition party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), told reporters. His daughter Nurul Issa Anwar defeated Family Welfare Minister Shahrizat of the BN.

No comments: