Malaysia: Rule of Law and Independence of the Judiciary

Essay by karenchandUniversity, Master'sA, June 2009

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IntroductionThroughout the last decades since independence in 1957, Malaysians have enjoyed regular elections and relative political stability, arguably right up to the most recent elections of March 2008 (when the hegemonic ruling party was thrown off balance by its worst ever electoral performance). However, to be considered a full-fledged democracy, a country must fulfill the essential conditions of participative and representative political competition, guaranteed civil and political liberties, including freedoms of press, of speech and of association, accountability and transparency of governance and the Rule of Law. Given these principles of democracy and the alleged insufficiency of their adherence in Malaysia, the country has been referred to as a paradox of "semiauthoritarian" rule in a participatory political system and has therefore often been labeled as "semi-democratic" or "quasi-democratic" . Jesudason referred to Malaysia as a "syncretic state", which "operates at a multi-dimensional level, mixing coercive elements with electoral and democratic procedures; it propagates religion in society as it pursues secular economic goals; it engages in ethnic mobilization while inculcating national feelings; and it pursues a combination of economic practices ranging from liberal capitalism, state economic intervention, to rentier arrangements."The

recent general elections of March 8 2008 demonstrated the worst performance ever of the hitherto hegemonic coalition ruling party of Barisan Nasional (BN), where the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was the controlling component party, in the country's 50 years of existence. Also, for the first time since 1969, BN lost the two-thirds majority in parliament it needs to amend the constitution. In this election, it won just 51% of the votes; and 63% of parliamentary seats . The election results and the tremendous support received by the opposition parties clearly sent a strong message of the dissatisfaction of the people over governance under BN. This is not even to say...