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Asia

Big Gains for Opposition in Malaysia

Saturday's elections in Malaysia resulted in major advances by three opposition parties. Though the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in parliament -- which it held for almost forty years -- Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stays on as both party president and as prime minister and was sworn into office on Monday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi casts his vote

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi casts his vote

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been sworn in for a second term on Monday, defying calls to quit after the ruling coalition's worst ever performance in the snap polls. His ruling coalition has won the polls by a slim majority, indicating that the opposition is gaining strength in the country. Many also see it as a verdict against the government's failure to tackle rising inflation and ethnic tensions.

But despite criticisms, the main ruling party the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has decided to keep Abdullah as the Prime Minister. He took the oath of the office before Malaysia's King Mizan Zainal Abidin in a solemn ceremony.

Calls for resignation

One of the leaders calling for Abdullah’s resignation was his predecessor and veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled for almost two decades before handing power to Abdullah in 2003. He accused the prime minister of "destroying" the coalition:

"The Japanese would have committed Harakiri -- Malays are not up to it. But I think Abdullah should consider stepping down."

Abdullah's task now is to form a new government under the Barisan Nasional, which is made up of 14 race-based parties including ethnic Chinese and Indian parties that were defeated in the polls.

Political comeback

Meanwhile the opposition, led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim -- who has made a stunning political comeback after his sacking and jailing a decade ago -- is getting down to business.

The opposition parties -- Anwar's Keadilan, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Islamic party PAS -- won an unprecedented four states in the polls. PAS also even extended its margin in northern Kelantan state, which it had held by a thin majority.

Anwar is convinced that the opposition parties -- which will rule the four swing states in various coalitions -- would be able to put aside their ideological differences and govern effectively:

"This is a defining moment, unprecedented in our recent history. Today a new chapter has opened. Today unity, consensus, and mutual respect returned. Tomorrow we start working to build a brighter future, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder -- this is a new dawn."

Big challenges ahead

Malaysia's opposition now faces the daunting task of running five states and a third of the national parliament. But according to political analysts, the overall challenge for them is to strengthen liberal democracy in Malaysia and not to use their majority to turn parliament into a mere bickering session.

  • Date 10.03.2008
  • Author DW Staff 03/10/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCz
  • Date 10.03.2008
  • Author DW Staff 03/10/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCz