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Inside Story

The race for Malaysia

We look at the key players and the changing political landscape ahead of the country's hotly contested election.

Last Modified: 04 May 2013 14:14
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It is a close race in Malaysia's upcoming elections, where the vote is seen as the toughest test for the ruling coalition's 56-year grip on power in Southeast Asia's third-largest economy.

The Malaysian electorate has also changed - they have become much less conservative, tradition-bound, more demanding of quality governance ...

Yin Shao Loong,  research director at Institut Rakyat

The opposition is trying to unseat the ruling National Front coalition, which - with over 50 years in power - is one of the world's longest serving governments.

This time though, the Pakatan Rakyat alliance, Malaysia's main opposition, has a real chance of winning. It says the National Front has been in power for too long, and it has promised to scrap the authoritarian style of rule and fight corruption.

This election pits two characters against each other.

Najib Razak is the current prime minister and his National Front coalition has been in power since 1957. Najib himself took over in 2009, following a disastrous election for the coalition, which lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

And Najib will be highlighting Malaysia's strong economic growth under his stewardship, as well as his handouts to poorer Malaysians, as a reason for re-election.

On the other side, Anwar Ibrahim is leader of the opposition and a former deputy prime minister. He was fired from office in 1998 and tried for abuse of power.

He was also cleared of a sodomy charge against an aide. Anwar was also acquitted of new allegations of sodomy last year - calling all the charges politically motivated.

Anwar is pledging to tackle government authoritarianism and corruption. He has promised to cut taxes, increase subsidies and address complaints of discrimination against minority ethnic Chinese and Indians.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of May 5 vote to select new parliament

Malaysia is an ethnically and religiously diverse country and this will play a big role in the upcoming elections.

  • It is home to almost 29 million people and consists of three main ethnic groups
  • Ethnic Malays make up 60 percent of the population
  • They are the most dominant group in politics
  • Ethnic Chinese who form around a quarter of the population are the second biggest group
  • The Chinese are the wealthiest community in Malaysia and hold the economic power
  • Indians and indigenous people make up the rest

Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses the changing political landscape in Malaysia with guests: Yin Shao Loong, a research director at the Institut Rakyat, who is also the author of the New Malaysian essays; Bunn Nagara, a senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS); and Michael Vatikiotis, the Asia director at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

"I think both coalitions are composed of strange bedfellows - to use that term - the coalition governments in Malaysia are always difficult to manage. If the Pakatan opposition coalition does win a slender majority, I think we are going to see alot of horse-trading in the weeks before a government can be formed and it may not be a done deal."

Michael Vatikiotis, the Asia director for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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