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No. 1, December 1999
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Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir and his 14-party National Front have won another two-thirds majority. The Alternative Front (and emprisoned Anwar Ibrahim) fall short of their goal.  
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Malaysia's 73-year old Prime Mahathir and his 14-party National Front (Barisan Nasional Coalition) have won a two-thirds majority in the 193-seat Parliament. The opposition, for the first time united in the Alternative Front, was not able to achieve its primary goal - to prevent the National Front from gaining a two-thirds majority. Their only important victory: the wife of Mahathir's former deputy and designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim, was able to win her husbands former seat. Anwar Ibrahim is serving a six year sentence for corruption and faces a trial on sodomy charges. Despite a massive propaganda war, the Alternative Front has won almost another 20 seats in addition to the 23 they were given by voters in the last election. Voter turnout was around 70%. A sign of protest? No, normal for Malaysia.
 
The 9.6 million Malaysian voters chose again Prime Minister Mahathir, Asia's longest serving elected leader, and his National Front, which has been in power since 1957. After a smear compaign that cannot be called democratic, he was able to convince the electors that without him, social, economic and political chaos would break out. In his slogans, Mahathir stood for stability. He also warned Muslim Malays that they could forfeit special privileges and cautioned the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities that they could lose their religious and cultural freedoms if the opposition were to win. In 1969, the election led to the worst racial riots in the nation's history, and as always, the Chinese were the primary target. But 1969 was special in the sense that communists tried to overthrow democratic rule. Still, the minorities are in favour of stability, even if its a pseudo-democratic one.
 
On the other hand, although the Alternative Front was united for the first time and opposed National Front candidates in all districts, they were not able to convince the Malysian voters. In fact, the four allies were a leftist party, a reformist Malay party with the special mission the help Anwar Ibrahim, a progressive Chinese party and a fundamentalist Islamic party that wants to turn Malaysia into a theocracy. This front was of course no real alternative to Mahathir and his National Front.
 
Mahathir was able to convince his voters that he is the man largely responsible for the economic miracle Malaysia has been experiencing since independance from Great Britain. National income per capita is more than twelve times higher than in 1957. In 1997, the Asian financial crisis also hit Malaysia, but after the 1998 recession, the economy is rebounding and growing again. It's annual growth rate of about 8% is the same it was in the decade before the Asian crisis, despite the fact that Prime Minister Mahathir repeatedly ignored IMF opinions and other international recipes and pressure.
 
Last but not least, Mahathir had the support of Malaysia's mass media. The four-party opposition coalition had almost no chance of being seen and heard in pro-government television stations and newspapers. But given the two-thirds victory by the National Front, popular support for Mahathir and his politics is still strong. But four of his Ministers have lost their mandate and therefore will not be included in the new cabinet. These are signs on the wall for the Prime Minister.


 
www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 1, December 1999
Current edition and Archives
English topical archives: ArtFilm - Music - History - Politics
For Advertisers - Links - Feedback - German edition

Copyright 1999  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.