RI a factor in Malaysia results: Analysts

Tony Hotland ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Wed, 03/12/2008 1:34 AM  |  Headlines

 Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/node/163505

The unprecedented results of Malaysia’s polls over the weekend may have been inspired by reform and democracy in Indonesia, analysts said.

Malaysia’s ruling coalition party lost its two-third majority in parliament, the first time in five decades, but on Monday party leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi retained his premiership for a second term.

Long-term observer of Malaysian politics Des Alwi said reform in Indonesia might have stoked the rebellion against the party leader.

Abdullah has been criticized for his administration’s poor handling of the economy, corruption and racial issues.

“We went down that road first and I think the wind of reform has blown in their direction,” Des said Tuesday.

“That’s our greatest swing to Malaysia.”

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), which has been for a long time opposed to former authoritarian Soeharto’s Golkar Party, gained votes in the 1999 general elections after Soeharto was toppled a year earlier.

A reform movement then swept the nation.

Golkar had held the majority in the House of Representatives for more than three decades.

Des was one of Indonesia’s negotiators during the confrontation with Malaysia in the early 1960s and was a friend then of Malaysian leaders.

He said many Malaysians had been tired of restrictions and the flourishing corruption in their country.

The resurgence of the opposition figure and former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was greeted immediately.

Anwar was convicted in 1998 on sex and graft charges, but he maintained the charges were politically motivated. The sex charge was later quashed.

Anwar led his Keadilan party to win 31 parliament seats from just one in the previous election.

“Their eyes were opened because of information coming from outside Malaysia on news wires and websites.

“They have matured,” Alwi said.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also Golkar chairman, said Tuesday the victory of the opposition parties was “a common part of a growing democracy, which in Malaysia was thanks to access to information”.

“Although the press is restricted in Malaysia, there are short massaging service (on cell phones) and the Internet allows wide public access to information,” he told Antara news agency.

Lawmaker Abdillah Toha of the House’s Commission I that deals with foreign affairs said the election results were “a start of a new era toward democracy”.

Also a National Mandate Party (PAN) leader, Abdillah said, “I’ve dealt with Malaysian lawmakers and they basically did not function”.

“They just did what the government said.

“Anwar Ibrahim is a strong figure and I personally think we’d have better relations if he was the prime minister.

“The results are a good lesson the Malaysian government must take seriously because their people showed they did not want to be ruled by a poorly-run administration anymore.”

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