Sunday, March 09, 2008

Malaysia Wakes To New Political Landscape

Malaysians awoke on Sunday to the biggest sea-change in politics in almost 40 years, with opposition Islamists and reformists winning control of five states and giving the government a humiliating wake-up call.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s multi-racial National Front coalition won just a simple majority in parliament, and his future as leader is in doubt after he watched a record majority collapse to the weakest level ever.

The streets were unusually quiet on Sunday, with many older Malaysians fearful of trouble. The last time the coalition suffered a heavy setback, in 1969, race riots erupted. Barisan has effectively ruled since independence from Britain in 1957.

"I am shocked. It feels Malaysia is a whole new country. It feels like it has been reborn," Daniel Sia, a 27-year-old civil engineer, said as he did some Sunday shopping in the capital.

Lai Yee Fei, 28, who works at a coffee bar beneath Kuala Lumpur’s soaring twin towers, said she was glad that Malaysia now had a strong opposition to press the government.

"It’s good to give some pressure for Barisan Nasional," she said. "If the opposition parties can stand up for us, on behalf of us, I think it’s good."

Abdullah, who only four years ago led the coalition to a record election victory on a wave of hope for change, faced a bleak political future on Sunday, his aides stunned but not willing to concede that he must step down.

"Frankly, this is not really the time because a lot of component parties (of Barisan) have been decimated," one close aide said, declining to be identified. "We have lost a few people and I think it’s time to consolidate."

Abdullah’s humbling performance nationally -- the coalition ended up with 62 percent of federal seats, down from 90 percent previously -- was compounded by the fact that his own home state, the industrial heartland of Penang, fell to the opposition.


The leftist Chinese-backed Democratic Action Party (DAP) won Penang, the hub for Malaysia’s electronics industry, which accounts for about half of exports.

The opposition Islamist party PAS scored shock victories in the northern heartland states of Kedah and Perak and easily retained power in its stronghold in north-eastern Kelantan state.

DAP and PAS also joined the People’s Justice Party, or Parti Keadilan, to take control of the industrial state of Selangor and almost all the seats in capital Kuala Lumpur.

Political experts and economists wondered aloud whether the Barisan government could now pursue its agenda, including plans for $325 billion (161 billion pounds) in development zones across the country.

Without a two-thirds parliamentary majority, Barisan can no longer change the constitution or make some key appointments and could struggle to alter electoral boundaries, powers that the opposition have long maintained were abused by Barisan.

"This is probably not good news for the equity market or the ringgit," said Tim Condon, Singapore-based head of Asia research for investment bank ING.

The pro-government media, Abdullah’s cheer-leader during the campaign, changed tack on Sunday, urging Barisan to ensure better job and education opportunities in this multi-racial nation.

Malaysia is largely a mix of ethnic Malays, which make up about 55 percent of the population, and ethnic Chinese and Indians, who account for about a third.

A protest vote from Chinese and Indians, upset over what they saw as racial inequality in terms of business, job and education opportunities, had been expected. The Indians were merciless, voting out the leader of the coalition’s Indian component party and handing a seat to an Indian activist currently in detention.

But Malays, who are all Muslims and traditionally support Barisan in good times and bad, completed a perfect storm for the government, handing the opposition Islamists a record vote in what was perceived as a protest against rising prices.

"Tomorrow we will start building a brighter future," said opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, de facto leader of Parti Keadilan, which emerged as the biggest opposition party in federal parliament with 31 seats. "This is a new dawn for Malaysia."

Anwar, a Malay and former deputy premier, is widely seen as the only politician who could unify the ideologically divided opposition into a coherent and credible political force, though many political experts see this an almost possible task.

Anwar was banned from standing in the elections because of a criminal record -- he spent six years in jail until 2004 on what he called trumped-up charges -- but is expected to take over his old seat from his wife, who has held it since his 1998 jailing.

Results from the elections commission as of 0320 GMT showed the National Front with 137 seats in the 222-seat parliament versus 82 for the opposition, with 3 seats still being tallied. (Reuters)

***** If the Umno leadership honestly reviews and assesses the debacle, it would be clear that the people have had enough of their corruption, manipulation and divide-and-rule strategy.

The Malays have clearly expressed their disenchantment with the goings on in Umno and over how the leaders have attempted to take everyone for a ride with their self-serving bangsa, agama dan negara drivel.

The non-Malays have spoken out in no uncertain terms that they will not put up with racial discrimination anymore.

Let's wait for the BN's response to this massive electoral 'dressing-down'.

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Blogger kittykat46 said...

The BN needs a deep and comprehensive soul-searching review of what has happened - and make appropriate changes, reinvent itself.
Not the usual superficial public-relations spin which this regime is so fond of.

If BN cannot reform itself, it will soon be on the scrap heap of history - like Indonesia's Golkar and Ferdinan Marcos's KBL

3:33 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hip hip hooray!Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! See, people of Malaysia, if we work together for righteous reasons, God will help us too!
And thanks to people like you, The Malaysian, who dared speak up!

4:02 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous SM said...

At alst Malaysians have shown Malaysia Boleh (for real now).
The people have spoken to Pak Lah thought their votes. If he is listening (at long last?0 he will get rid of the "trash" that is surrounding him. If he does not do this then there will be no difference.
This s his chance to "clean-up".

5:24 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous THE KING SPEAKS said...

First, I am very happy to see that Semi Value was disposed. Secondly, I am happy arrogant leaders like Khir Toyo and Koh Tsu Koon ( he said only chinese deserves to stand on Gerakan seats) have been dumped. Thirdly, BN would realise that mature Malaysians can't tolerate corruption, nepotism and cronyism that has enabled a few UMNO leaders to become so rich. My only disappoinment is that racist Khairy Jamaluddin managed to hang on. Damn!!!! He should have been defeated.

6:26 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous BrightEyes said...

If it wasn't for The Postal Service, Khairy could have lost humiliatingly to CekguBard.

Glad to see Koh Tsu Koon, Samy Vellu, Zakaria's proxy, and DisInfo Minister Zain get their ass handed to them.

7:35 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person we should thank most is Mahathir. If he did not leave a legacy of corruption and tyranny, or victimized Anwar (who would've been defeated just like other BN leaders if he was in BN) and in the process 'reformed' Anwar in jail into a better, fairer, less arrogant leader (hopefully that is) who is now the people's choice, this turn of events will never happen. And don't blame Pak Lah lah, because the way things were going, even if Najib or His were PM, either would've been blamed. The people ultimately were angry with BN and rightly so. Let's hope this really is the new era of democracy for Malaysia.

8:43 PM GMT+8  

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