Billed as one of the most important elections in the Malaysian state’s history, Sarawak heads to the polls on 7 May. But the campaign has sent confusing messages and failed to inspire voters, reports Bridget Welsh.
Malaysian politics is at present an intriguing mixture of stasis and flux. The most high-profile issue in September-October 2008 has been the failure of leading opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim to deliver his promise to find enough numbers to create a majority in parliament and as a result create a more representative government.
The prime minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said on Wednesday that he would step down in March 2009. His departure would pave the way for his chosen successor to take control of a governing party that appears to be losing its grip after five decades in power.
Malaysia has been in a political flux since March 2008 when the long-governing multiethnic coalition lost its two-thirds majority in the parliament. The biggest party in the coalition, United Malays National Organization, has ruled Malaysia for fifty-one years, first under the leadership of Mahathir Mohamad, and since 1993, under current Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. But recently, calls for Abdullah’s resignation (BBC) have grown louder and the opposition under Anwar Ibrahim has been claiming power.
Malaysia’s recent dramatic crackdown on public protest could force the prime minister to delay plans for an early election next year, after the events embittered the opposition and soured the public mood.