Is Malaysia a monarchy or a democracy

Malaysia : Formal democracy

On Sunday, the Malaysian government defended the violence against demonstrators who took to the streets for more democratic conditions in the country. The critics only had chaos in mind and wanted to damage Malaysia's reputation, it said.

The Bersih movement, an association of more than 60 non-governmental organizations and three major opposition parties, called for the protest. "Bersih" means "clean" in Malay. Bersih called for a review of the electoral register. Around 2.5 million young Malaysians are not listed there; instead, quite a few deceased can be found there. The fingers of voters should be marked with non-washable paint after they have cast in order to prevent multiple votes. Postal voting is to be abolished as the results are particularly easy to falsify. Above all, the group demands that all political party candidates should be given equal access to the country's media.

Prime Minister Najib's government rejects the demands. The prime minister said the protest represented only a minority in Malaysia. “If there are people who want to hold an illegal demonstration, then there are many more who are against this plan.” The protest is just a loud advertising attempt by the opposition before the elections, which could be held in early 2012.

Only recently, in view of the threat of protest, members of the ruling party indicated that the police were participating in army target practice. Several hundred activists have also been arrested in the past few weeks. A group that campaigned for the protest is said to be charged with attempting to "wage war against the king". Their offense: Che Guevara T-shirts were found on them.

There is a reason for the government's obvious nervousness: In 2007, Bersih held a large-scale protest in Kuala Lumpur, which was attended by 40,000 people. At that time, too, the authorities violently suppressed the demonstration. The following year, the ruling Barisan-Nasional coalition lost its two-thirds majority in elections. Although it still received 140 of the 222 seats that were allocated at the time, the opposition alliance won 82 seats. In percentage terms, however, the lead was marginal. Critics of the government say that a more transparent electoral system could quickly destroy this advantage.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and formally a democratic state. However, since independence, essentially the same clique of businessmen and politicians has been in charge. The press is firmly in the hands of the government. Independent, generally accessible reporting can only be found on internet blogs, but only reaches a small proportion of the people in rural areas, the majority of the voters in the governing coalition. The opposition has a number of its own publications, but these are heavily controlled by the government and can only be distributed to party members.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is currently on trial for allegedly having sex with an employee, which is a crime in prudish Malaysia. In the past, however, Malaysia's leadership has resorted to tougher means than smear campaigns in the face of impending defeat. After the opposition's near-victory in 1969, anti-Chinese pogroms broke out in which thousands of people are believed to have been murdered. Critics claim that the government instigated the unrest at the time. What is certain is that she did too little to end the unrest. The government declared a state of emergency after the riots and ruled dictatorially for two years.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, the Barisan-Nasional coalition - it has ruled since Malaysia's independence - pursued an ethnically oriented (critics say: racist) policy that favors Malays, around half the population today, over other ethnic groups. Only last year Prime Minister Najib threatened that Malaysia would lead to “ethnic cleansing like in Rwanda or Bosnia” if the opposition did not stop questioning the special status of the Malays.

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