Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Malaysia
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong ("paramount ruler"), customarily referred to as the king. Kings are elected for 5-year terms from among the nine sultans of the peninsular Malaysian states. The king also is the leader of the Islamic faith in Malaysia.
Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of parliament and is responsible to that body.
The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate (Dewan Negara) and the Hall of The People (Dewan Rakyat). All 69 Senate members sit for 6-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and 43 are appointed by the king.
Members of Parliament in the Hall are elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage. The 219 members of the Dewan Rakyat are appointed by popular election. Parliament has a maximum mandate of 5 years by law. The king may dissolve parliament at any time and usually does so upon the advice of the Prime Minister. General elections must be held within three months of the dissolution of parliament. In practice this means that elections are held every 3-5 years depending on the current political situation.
Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. Malaysia has two constituencies of law. One is for the entire nation and is sovereign. This is set by parliament. The highest of this is the constitution and requires a two thirds majority to amend. However, the ruling party has never had less than this number. The second constituency of law is syariah (Islamic law) which applies to Muslims in this country. The federal government has little input into the setting of syariah and it falls to the states to determine what is Islamic law. Not surprisingly, this means that Islamic law differs from state to state. Strangely enough, all claim that it is god's law and all also claim to worship the same god.
The Malaysian legal system is based on English common law. However, most of the laws and the constitution is lifed from Indian law. The Federal Court reviews decisions referred from the Court of Appeals; it has original jurisdiction in constitutional matters and in disputes between states or between the federal government and a state. Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak each have a high court.
The federal government has authority over external affairs, defense, internal security, justice (except civil law cases among Malays or other Muslims and other indigenous peoples, adjudicated under Islamic and traditional law), federal citizenship, finance, commerce, industry, communications, transportation, and other matters.
Malaysia's predominant political party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), has held power in coalition with other parties since Malaya's independence in 1957. In 1973, an alliance of communally based parties was replaced with a broader coalition--the Barisan Nasional--composed of 14 parties. Today the Barisan Nasional alliance has three prominent members - the UMNO, MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) and MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress).
In early September 1998, Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad dismissed Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and accused Anwar of immoral and corrupt conduct. Anwar said his ouster actually owed to political differences and led a series of demonstrations advocating political reforms. Later in September, Anwar was arrested, beaten while in prison (by among others, the chief of police at the time), and charged with corrupt practices, i.e., obstruction of justice and sodomy. In April 1999, he was convicted of four counts of corruption and sentenced to 6 years in prison. In August 2000, Anwar was convicted of one count of sodomy and sentenced to 9 years to run consecutively after his earlier 6-year sentence. Both trials were viewed by domestic and international observers as unfair. Anwar's conviction on sodomy has since been overturned, and having completed his 6 year sentence for corruption, he has since been released from prison. In the November 1999 general election, the Barisan Nasional was returned to power with three-fourths of the parliamentary seats, but UMNO's seats dropped from 94 to 72. The opposition Barisan Alternatif coalition, led by the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), increased its seats to 42. PAS retained control of the state of Kelantan and won the additional state of Terengganu.
The current Prime Minister is Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (fondly known as 'Pak Lah'). He took office following the retirement of Dr. Mahathir (now Tun Dr. Mahathir) on the 31st of October 2003. He is seen as a more compromising and affable figure as opposed to Tun Dr. Mahathir's more confrontational and direct style. He has pledged to continue Tun Dr. Mahathir's growth oriented policies, while taking a less belligerent stance on foreign policy than Tun Dr. Mahathir, who has regularly offended Western countries, the United States of America and Australia in particular.
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