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Asia

Malaysia’s Oppostion Struggles to Unite

Malaysia's opposition alliance has been struggling to reach power-sharing pacts in one of the country's states. The three opposition parties, which won five out of 13 states in a weekend election, have been facing internal disagreements on forming a stable coalition government in the state of Perak.

Former Prime minister and People's Justice Party leader Ibrahim Anwar

Former Prime minister and People's Justice Party leader Ibrahim Anwar

The stunning performance of the opposition parties in the weekend polls has started a new era in Malaysian politics. The opposition alliance comprises the Chinese based Democratic Action Party, the Pan Malaysian Islamic party of ethnic Malays and the multi ethnic People’s Justice party, which is led by former premier Anwar Ibrahim. They shook the foundations of the ruling coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation by winning five out of 13 states. The decisive factor in the polls proved to be the dissatisfaction among Malaysia's sizable Chinese and Indian minorities, who have criticised the ruling coalition for its racial polices.

Tussles over northern State?

But within days, the opposition alliance has started showing cracks. They are struggling to reach power sharing pacts in northern state of Perak. The dispute arose after the state's titular head, the Sultan of Perak, chose Mohammad Nizar Jamaulddin of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party to be the Chief Minister.

The move has upset the ethnic Democratic Action Party, which has won the largest number of seats in the state assembly.

But as Kuala Lumpur based journalist Steven Jan explains, the Sultan’s decision was based on the Constitution:

“Under the state constitution, the Chief Minister comes from the Malay community. But in the DAP, all of them are ethnic Chinese or Indians .So none of them can become the Chief Minister and that’s where the problem lies.”

End to racial politics

Developments in Perak state have raised concerns that the opposition alliance may not to stick together for long. However journalist Jan plays down the concern and says the fact that the opposition alliance has come to power in five states shows that the country is moving towards abandoning race-based politics.

“Malaysia has always lived under the shadow of racial politics. I think the reason why the opposition coalition managed to win is because of the fact that the voters wanted the racial politics to end. And the opposition has put together a pretty multi racial line up.

Besides the state victories, the opposition alliance also made spectacular gains at national level. They have won a total of 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament.

Business- friendly and pro-poor polices

Former Prime minister Ibrahim Anwar’s People's Justice Party is now the largest opposition party in parliament with 31 seats and is the biggest multi-racial faction. He said the opposition alliance will try to ensure that the poor among all races receive benefits in their states:

“I expected a short term weakening of ringgit currency. But it will not persist unless the ruling coalition "chooses to pursue a regressive policy of punishment" and freezes planned development programmes to the now opposition controlled states.”

The political earthquake triggered a 9.5 percent decline on the stock market on Monday. Investors went panicky over the prospect of an untested opposition running key states. But the market has gradually shown signs of recovery. Anwar has also promised investors "business-friendly" policies and a crackdown on corruption.

  • Date 13.03.2008
  • Author DW Staff 13/03/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCw
  • Date 13.03.2008
  • Author DW Staff 13/03/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsCw