Malaysia’s parliamentary standoff

ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images With everyone’s attention fixed on the financial meltdown here in the United States, it’s been easy to overlook the instability of another large institution: the Malaysian government. On the occasion of Malaysia’s national holiday, opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim declared that he had assembled enough MPs from the ...

592530_080917_anwar5.jpg
592530_080917_anwar5.jpg

ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

With everyone's attention fixed on the financial meltdown here in the United States, it's been easy to overlook the instability of another large institution: the Malaysian government.

On the occasion of Malaysia's national holiday, opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim declared that he had assembled enough MPs from the ruling bloc to form a new government. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party has been in power for 50 years but has recently seen its majority eroded by the opposition, which is drawing strength from the long-standing resentment of BN's racially divisive policies. More recently, BN has also shown contempt towards democratic institutions by detaining vocal journalists and commentators under the country's Internal Security Act, causing a public backlash.

ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

With everyone’s attention fixed on the financial meltdown here in the United States, it’s been easy to overlook the instability of another large institution: the Malaysian government.

On the occasion of Malaysia’s national holiday, opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim declared that he had assembled enough MPs from the ruling bloc to form a new government. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party has been in power for 50 years but has recently seen its majority eroded by the opposition, which is drawing strength from the long-standing resentment of BN’s racially divisive policies. More recently, BN has also shown contempt towards democratic institutions by detaining vocal journalists and commentators under the country’s Internal Security Act, causing a public backlash.

All eyes are on Anwar, whom we interviewed a few months back, and whether he will follow through. For months, he has repeated that his coalition would seize power on Sept. 16, but is now taking a softer stance, instead demanding talks with BN leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to “ensure that the transition will be peaceful.” Meanwhile, Abdullah is calling Anwar out on a bluff, saying that if the opposition leader really had the requisite numbers for a new government, he would “storm into my room with hundreds screaming behind him ‘victory.'” We’ll let you know if that happens.

Jerome Chen is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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