Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Malaysia's election drama begins!

As widely expected, Malaysia will hold its national election in March following move in dissolving the parliament today.

According to conventional wisdom, the administration of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who inherited the premiership from popular Mahathir Mohamad in 2003, is eager to secure another electoral mandate before things get worse next year.

Polls are not due until May 16, 2009. Reuters correctly pointed out that analysts had expected him to seek a fresh mandate before the economy begins to slow and inflation picks up steam.

Another plausible reason is the need to prevent former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim from taking part in the elections. Due to his past criminal case, charismatic Anwar is not allowed to run for public office until April.

The reasons all sound plausible. It's almost a foregone conclusion that the ruling National Front coalition will form the government again. It's just a matter of the margin of victory.

Reuters puts it elegantly: Opposition parties complain that the electorate is gerrymandered in favor of mainly rural Malays, that the pro-government media gives them short shrift and campaigning rules favor the incumbents.

But there will always be drama in Malaysia's political theatre.