Seiz­ing Malaysia’s Mo­ment

Global Asia - - CONTENTS - By Muthiah Ala­gappa

With the down­fall of the rul­ing party after 60 years, the new gov­ern­ment un­der Ma­hathir Mohamad can turn Malaysia into a bea­con of demo­cratic hope in south­east asia.

The dra­matic change in Malaysian pol­i­tics brought about by the May 9 gen­eral elec­tions saw more than the down­fall of the rul­ing party for the first time since in­de­pen­dence. The re­pu­di­a­tion of the en­trenched and au­to­cratic Barisan Na­sional led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter

Na­jib Razak gives the coun­try the chance fi­nally to sweep away racial pol­i­tics and other struc­tural flaws in the sys­tem, writes Muthiah Ala­gappa.

If the new gov­ern­ment un­der Ma­hathir Mohamad is smart, Malaysia could be­come a bea­con of demo­cratic hope in South­east Asia.

Malaysia’s HIS­TORIC May 9 elec­tion was dra­matic, sweep­ing and un­prece­dented. a rul­ing party in power with seem­ingly im­preg­nable ad­van­tages was ousted through the bal­lot box. There was no ex­tra con­sti­tu­tional up­ris­ing, as in the Philip­pines in 1986, no mil­i­tary coup as in neigh­bor­ing Thai­land, no ri­ot­ing and tur­moil as in In­done­sia in 1998. The cur­tain was pulled aside and sud­denly the mighty barisan Na­sional and its main com­po­nent party, the united Malays Na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UMNO), was shown to be vul­ner­a­ble, its achilles’ heel of cor­rup­tion ren­der­ing it weak, at least for now.

Much of the credit must go to the new prime min­is­ter, Ma­hathir Mohamad, who has stunned the world with his re­turn to power at the age of 92. a Malay na­tion­al­ist, he forged a rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing the econ­omy — and act­ing harshly against his op­po­nents — dur­ing his long ten­ure as premier from 1981 to 2003. his moves against for­mer prime min­is­ter Na­jib Razak in re­cent years set the stage for what was to come. ul­ti­mately, the leadership of an­war Ibrahim’s Parti Kead­i­lan Rakyat joined forces to form the Pakatan hara­pan

Coali­tion led by Ma­hathir. be­hind the scenes, weari­ness with

Malaysia’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing na­tional im­age un­der

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