Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:32 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:32 | SYDNEY

Malaysia unbalanced (part 2)


Malcolm Cook

11 March 2008 06:22

In a blog post in the run-up to the Malaysian parliamentary elections, I hinted that change may be in the offing and that Malaysia’s post-Independence order, crystallized by the UMNO-led ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), may be in trouble. Well, the election results reflect this, but in a much more powerful manner than I predicted. This was the worst-ever election result for BN, with the rot the worst in the ethnic Indian and Chinese satellite parties. Not only did BN lose their vaunted 2/3rds majority, the ethnic Indian and Chinese parties lost 31 of their 51 seats. The Malaysian Indian Congress, in the electoral bloodshed, lost their senior leadership team, including the seemingly invincible Samy Vellu. It is estimated that Indian support for BN candidates collapsed from 82% in the 2004 election to only 47% this time, while Chinese support plunged from 65% to 35% and Malay support drifted from 63% to 58%.

BN, which still controls over 60% of the seats, is now much more a bumiputra (native Malaysian) coalition, bringing together the Malay majority of peninsula Malaysia and the non-Malay bumiputras of Sabah and Sarawak, while the newly emboldened opposition brings together the strange bedfellows on the Islamist PAS party, the traditionally ethnic Chinese DAP party, and Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR party. PM Abdullah will likely have to fall quickly on his sword and step down as prime minister and UMNO president. Anwar Ibrahim is on the ascendance and will be able to participate fully in the next election.

It is clear that Malaysia’s political map has been withdrawn but potentially not in a way to manage its communal tensions better, as BN still controls most of the seats but is much less inter-communal, while the newly emboldened opposition still has a long way to go and is made up of parties that may not have much in common except a desire to supplant BN and UMNO. Malaysian politics is now unbalanced in a way we have not seen before.