Politics of Malaysia
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.
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
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
In early September 1998, the former Prime Minister
Mahathir bin Mohamad 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
The Prime Minister after Mahathir was Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (fondly known as 'Pak Lah'). He took office
following Dr. Mahathir's (now Tun Dr. Mahathir) resignation 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 USA and
Australia in particular.
The current Prime Minister is Najib Razak (born 23 July 1953) is the sixth, and since 2009, Prime Minister
of Malaysia. Najib succeeded Abdullah at a time after his ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional, lost its long held two-thirds majority in parliament to the opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the 2008 parliamentary election. Since then Najib has tried to build a moderate image for himself and the UMNO through the 1Malaysia campaign.
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