Malaysia. It was a politically turbulent year, when former Deputy Prime Minister – now chief opposition leader – Anwar Ibrahim returned to the political hot air. At the same time, UMNO, which has ruled the country since independence in 1957, was in crisis since the party made its worst choice ever.
Prime Minister and UMNO leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced parliamentary elections until March 8, a year earlier than necessary. Assessors felt that the election was triggered by the fact that Anwar Ibrahim in April would be allowed to make a political comeback after being suspended for several years because of a corruption verdict.
In the elections, the ruling 14-party coalition National Front, which is dominated by UMNO, fell sharply and lost its right to make amendments to the constitution alone, losing its two-thirds majority in parliament. However, the government could retain the National Front. Together, the parties included in the National Front received 140 of the 222 seats in Parliament. UMNO collapsed with a full 30 seats compared to the 2004 election to 79 seats.
The parties of the opposition coalition Alternative Front won 82 seats together. The largest opposition party was Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party (PKR) which received 31 seats, an increase of 30 seats compared to 2004. The Islamist opposition party PAS won 23 seats. Also locally, the National Front backed down and lost power in four of the eleven states.
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One reason for the government coalition’s losses was likely to be Anwar Ibrahim’s harsh criticism of the governing bodies, but the government’s stubborn way of handling a series of ethnic demonstrations in 2007 also contributed to the cancer. It was primarily voters from the country’s Chinese and Indian minorities who left the National Front.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was allowed to remain as prime minister, but criticism of him became fierce and confidence in him gradually diminished during the year. In the fall, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that he will not run for re-election as party leader at the UMNO Congress in March 2009, which in practice means he also leaves the post of prime minister. Tipped successor was Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In August, Anwar Ibrahim was once again indicted for sodomy after a younger ex-employee accused him of this. The opposition leader was jailed in 2000 for sodomy and corruption, which prevented him from acting politically for many years. However, he was later cleared of all charges and awarded damages. This time Anwar Ibrahim could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. That same month, Anwar Ibrahim regained a seat in Parliament, after ten years in the cold, after winning a filling election.
Before Mahathir’s visit to the United States in May 2002, police arrested 14 suspected militant Islamists – including the wife of a person suspected of assisting the men behind the September 11, 2001. US terrorist operation, warmly received by Washington, thanking the Malaysian government for its support for the “war on terror” for which the United States sees itself at the forefront.
Prime Minister Mahathir declared in June 2002 that he would resign from the post in 2003. It sparked surprise and uncertainty in the country. The 77-year-old Mahathir articulated very harsh criticism of the United States and Britain. Among other things. he declared that Malaysia had to prepare for future attempts at colonization because the United States and Britain want to return to colonial times. The speech was in continuation of the Alliance Free Lands Summit in Kuala Lumpur in February 2003. Here they had sharply condemned the US war on Iraq. The country’s attitude aroused US President George Bush, threatening economic sanctions.
After 22 years in the post of prime minister, in August 2003, Mahathir handed it to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah Badawi’s National Front coalition won the election in March 2004, regaining control of the state of Terengganu on the East Coast, which had otherwise been in the hands of the Islamic Party. The coalition also got 2/3 of the seats in parliament.
In September, a Malaysian court ordered former economist Anwar Ibrahim released, who had otherwise been convicted of sodomy.
On December 26, Southeast Asia was hit by a powerful submarine earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Despite Malaysia’s proximity to the epicenter of the earthquake, the country is predominantly sheltered by the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and it was therefore only the northern coasts that were hit by the tsunami. On the island of Penang, dozens of people were affected by the masses of water and also the provinces of Kedah and Perak were affected.
Just weeks after the government launched a major operation in May 2005 to expel migrant workers from the country, the government decided to soften immigration rules so that former illegal and deported migrant workers could return to look for work. The peculiar retreat was due to the fact that the government had initially wanted to reap political fruit from a hard-hitting policy towards migrant workers – most of whom come from Indonesia – but subsequently the government was forced to reopen due to the shortage of labor. The migrant workers make up 10% of the Malaysian workforce.
At an international conference to promote dialogue between Islamic and Western thinkers in Kuala Lumpur in February 2006, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi called for bridging “the huge divide between the Islamic world and the West”.
In the April 2007 elections, the government coalition stepped forward, while the opposition led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim resigned. Ibrahim had re-entered politics after being released from a prison sentence in 2004. He accused the government of electoral fraud, but international observers described the election as pure.
At the March 2008 parliamentary elections, the government coalition declined and had to settle for 50.3% of the vote. A decline from 63.9% in 2004. The votes were first and foremost lost to the major opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Front) led by Anwar Ibrahim. Pakatan got 46.8% of the vote. The opposition also prevailed at the state level, winning 5 of 13 states against 1 in 2004. There was not a single reason for the government coalition’s decline but a wide range: inflation, commodity shortages, gasoline prices, rising crime, poor governance and corruption. Despite its strong progress, the opposition claimed there was widespread electoral fraud and that it would have won the election without this scam. International observers confirmed a number of irregularities.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Malaysia in 2008 was 28,207,924, ranking number 44 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.890% yearly, and the population density was 85.8561 people per km2.