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1 June 2010 

Malaysian PM reshuffles cabinet

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday announced a Cabinet reshuffle aimed at stabilising his coalition and boosting support from ethnic minorities ahead of the next general election, reported Channel News Asia.

The reshuffle, involving 12 ministries, brought in more figures from parties representing ethnic Chinese and Indians, which were hit by leadership tussles after disastrous results in the 2008 elections.

The troubles have undermined Najib's attempts to regain the support of minorities who deserted the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the elections.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second-largest coalition member, has now emerged from a torrid period of infighting including a videotape sex scandal.

The Malaysian Indian Congress, the third-largest party, is however facing a new period of crisis with members demanding its ageing leader step down.

Najib must call an election by 2013 but there has been talk that he may decide to go to the polls as early as next year.

"The underlying aim of the reshuffle is to strengthen the Barisan Nasional," said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

Khoo said Najib hopes that promoting leaders from the component parties will bolster the image of the BN, which is led by Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

In 2008, the BN lost ground in peninsular Malaysia but swept 54 electorates in the Borneo island states of Sabah and Sarawak, a large chunk of the 137 seats that enabled it to remain in power.

But in May it lost a by-election in a Sarawak constituency.

The opposition has now won eight out of 11 by-elections since the 2008 polls which saw it claim five states and a third of parliamentary seats in an unprecedented result.

The opposition has also garnered strong support from minority Chinese and Indian voters, and is making inroads with the majority Muslim Malays who have been UMNO's bedrock since independence half a century ago.


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