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Post-GE13: Any Closer to Ethnic Harmony and Democratic Change?

Malaysia’s general election in 2008 seemed seriously to challenge the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), converting its simple party dominance into a two-party system. UMNO elites were stunned by the results, encouraging some of them to call for political reforms and greater cross-ethnic cooperation. Gradually, most reformers were swept aside. Even so, expectations mounted among politicians and observers that the opposition would make still greater gains in the next general election, held in 2013, possibly even winning outright. However, though the opposition did win a slight majority of the popular vote and more seats in parliament, UMNO was able to claim victory. It did this by tightening its grip on bedrock Malay supporters in rural areas, while retaining its hold on voters in Sabah and Sarawak, then heightening its numbers through extreme malapportionment of the country’s single-member districts. Further, if UMNO elites had grown fractious after Malaysia’s 12th general election, they displayed new unity, even defiance, after Malaysia’s 13th general election (GE13). Thus, they perpetuated the ethnic suspicions of the Chinese that they had heightened during the campaigning; and they imposed new controls on opposition party leaders and organisers. Far from advancing democratic change, then, GE13 has served to roll democracy back. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]
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