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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 House of Representatives (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. Representatives of the House are elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage. The 193 members of the House of Representatives are elected to maximum terms of 5 years. Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures.

The Malaysian legal system is based on English common 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.

Political conditions
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 dismissed Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibraham 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, 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. 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[?].

Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Malaysia
former: Malayan Union[?]

Data code: MY

Government type: constitutional monarchy
note: Malaya (what is now Peninsular Malaysia) formed 31 August 1957; Federation of Malaysia (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore) formed 9 July 1963 (Singapore left the federation on 9 August 1965); nominally headed by the paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; Peninsular Malaysian[?] states - hereditary rulers in all but Malacca, Penang, Sabah, and Sarawak, where governors are appointed by the Malaysian Government; powers of state governments are limited by the federal constitution; under terms of the federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., the right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah - holds 20 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government; Sarawak - holds 28 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government

Capital: Kuala Lumpur

Administrative divisions: 13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) and 2 federal territories* (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan, singular - wilayah persekutuan); Johor, Kedah[?], Kelantan[?], Labuan[?]*, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan[?], Pahang, Perak, Perlis[?], Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu[?], Wilayah Persekutuan[?]*
note: the city of Kuala Lumpur is located within the federal territory of Wilayah Persekutuan[?]; the terms therefore are not interchangeable

Independence: 31 August 1957 (from United Kingdom)

National holiday: National Day, 31 August (1957)

Constitution: 31 August 1957, amended 16 September 1963

Legal system: based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Paramount Ruler Sultan TUANKU SYED SIRAJUDDIN Ibni Almarhum Syed Putra Jamalullail (since 21 November 2001); Deputy Paramount Ruler Sultan MIZAN Zainal Abidin ibni A-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah
head of government: Prime Minister Dr. MAHATHIR bin Mohamad (since 16 July 1981); Deputy Prime Minister ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi (since 8 January 1999)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the paramount ruler
elections: paramount ruler and deputy paramount ruler elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; election last held 27 February 1999 (next to be held NA 2004); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins a plurality of seats in the House of Representatives becomes prime minister
election results: Sultan TUANKU SYED SIRAJUDDIN Ibni Almarhum Syed Putra Jamalullail elected paramount ruler; Sultan MIZAN Zainal Abidin ibni A-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah elected deputy paramount ruler

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of nonelected Senate or Dewan Negara[?] (69 seats; 43 appointed by the paramount ruler, 26 appointed by the state legislatures) and the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat[?] (193 seats; members elected by popular vote weighted toward the rural Malay population to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held 29 November 1999 (next to be held 3 November 2004)
election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NF 56%, other 44%; seats by party - NF 148, PAS 27, DAP 10, NJP 5, PBS 3

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister

Political parties and leaders: State Reform Party or STAR [PATAV Rubis]; Democratic Action Party or DAP [LIM Kit Siang]; Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia [LIM Keng Yaik]; Liberal Democratic Party [leader NA]; Malaysian Chinese Association or MCA [LING Liong Sik]; Malaysian Indian Congress or MIC [S. Samy VELLU]; National Front or NF [MAHATHIR bin Mohamad] (a coalition of 14 political parties, dominated by the UMNO, and including the UPKO, SAPP, and the Liberal Democratic Party); National Justice Party or NJP [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismail]; Parti Akar [Datuk PANDIKAR Amin Mulia]; Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak or PBDS [Datuk Leo MOGGIE]; Parti Bersekutu [HARRIS Salleh]; Parti Islam SeMalaysia or PAS [Ustaz Fadzil Mohamed NOOR (demised)]; Party Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu or PBB [Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul TAIB Mahmud]; Sabah People's Progressive Party or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee]; Sabah People's United Party (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) or PBRS [Datuk Joseph KURUP]; Sarawak National Party or SNAP [Datuk Amar James WONG]; Sarawak United People's Party or SUPP [Datuk Dr. George CHAN Hong Nam]; United Kadazan People's Organization or UPKO (formerly Parti Demokratik Sabah) [Bernard DOMPOK]; United Malays National Organization or UMNO [OSU Sukam]; United Sabah Party (main opposition party) (Parti Bersatu Sabah) or PBS [Dr. Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan]
note: subsequent to the election, the following parties were dissolved - Spirit of '46 or Semangat '46 [Tengku Tan Sri RAZALEIGH, president] and Sabah United Party (Parti Bersatu Sabah) or PBS [Datuk Seri Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan]

International organization participation: APEC, AsDB, ASEAN, C, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-15[?], G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB[?], IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, MINURSO[?], NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNTAET, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dato' GHAZZALI Sheikh Abdul Khalid
chancery: 2401 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 328-2700
FAX: [1] (202) 483-7661
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York

Diplomatic representation from the United States:
chief of mission: Ambassador B. Lynn PASCOE
embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
mailing address: P. O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; American Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152
telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000
FAX: [60] (3) 242-2207

Flag description: 14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow fourteen-pointed star; the crescent and the star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the flag of the United States

External Link

Read longtime Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad’s interview with the PBS series “Commanding Heights” on the subject of East Asian economic development.



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