ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
March 9, 2008
Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) lost control of four state governments, failing, for the first time in 39 years, to win two-thirds majority in parliament.
BN, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) won 139 out of 220 seats in parliament in what was seen as its worst performance in a general election since independence in 1957. It needed 148 seats for a two-thirds majority.
The opposition, the alliance of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Islamic Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), significantly boosted its margin from 19 seats in the last election in 2004 to 81 seats.
“DAP will form the next Penang state government in cooperation and coalition with PKR - a government for all Malaysians embracing Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races,” the party’s secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was quoted as telling a local daily.
Among the other opposition winners were Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim, and Manoharan Malayalam, an ethnic Indian activist who is being detained without trial after organising anti-discrimination protests.
A key issue in the elections was disillusionment among ethnic Chinese and Indians, who have long complained of discrimination, particularly an affirmative action system that gives the Muslim Malays preference in jobs, business and education.
The programme was designed 37 years ago to help the majority Malays catch up with the wealthier Chinese. But minorities complain the system continues despite rising standards of livings for Malays.
Malays make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, while Chinese account for 25 percent and Indians 8 percent. Each ethnicity is represented by a party in the National Front, a power-sharing arrangement designed to keep racial tensions at bay.