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Cities in MALAYSIA

Kuala lumpur


State structure

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy. The nine-member Conference of Sultans elects one of its members as King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) every five years. The power of the Sultans changed after independence (the British had left the colonial federal states with a certain degree of self-government). In 1993, the legal immunity of the Sultans was also curtailed. On 13 December 2006, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu State was appointed King.

The federal government consists of a Premier and his ministers, whose appointment is confirmed by the King. Each of the thirteen states has an Executive Council, which handles the administration of the state under the leadership of a chief minister (menteri besar). The constitutional responsibility of each state lies with the Sultan or, in the four states where he is absent, with a state governor appointed by the King on the advice of the Federal Government.

The federal parliament has two chambers. General elections take place in principle every 5 years, the last one in March 2004. The Senate has 69 members, of whom 26 are elected by the parliaments of the states and 43 are appointed by the King. The House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) has 219 directly elected members.


The dominant political party, United Malays National Organisations (UMNO), has been part of the ruling coalition since Malaysia's independence in 1957. Since 1973, the coalition has mainly consisted of UMNO, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). The Prime Minister has until now always come from UMNO. Under Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who took office at the end of October 2003, there have been no fundamental changes in Malaysian domestic or foreign policy. Continuity, therefore, also with regard to the political and economic preferential treatment of the Malaysian population through positive discrimination. The general elections held in March 2004 strengthened the government coalition at the expense of the radical Islamic opposition, Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS). However, the Prime Minister was unable to use his election victory to strengthen his position within his party. This has, among other things, limited his ability to implement his election promise to clean up corruption.

Badawi differs from former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in his style, which is more characterised by a willingness to compromise and is less confrontational and direct than Mahathir's. He is also a member of the party's Executive Committee. Badawi focuses his policies on fighting poverty, improving education, and reforming the police, legal system, and government. In the media, Mahathir has regularly been critical of his successor. Mahathir has modernised Malaysia through large-scale state projects and sees his legacy threatened by the reforms. In the foreign policy field, the frame of reference continues to be determined primarily by an orientation towards the ASEAN countries, Japan, South Korea and China, and the non-aligned countries, as well as a strong interest in Islamic countries, particularly the Gulf States. Furthermore, the fight, especially in the region, against international terrorism of an extremist Islamic nature remains a high priority.

There is great uncertainty about the political significance of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. In 1998, following a difference of opinion with Mahathir about the policy to be pursued in response to the Asian financial crisis, he was dismissed from his post and charged with sodomy and corruption. In 2005, Anwar was finally discharged by the Federal Court from prosecution for sodomy and released as he had already served his sentence for corruption. In November 2006, Anwar announced plans to return to politics in 2008.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


Malaysia's economic development is highly dependent on developments in the region and especially on economic developments in the United States and Japan, Malaysia's main trading partners. The high growth rates in recent years have contributed to a drastic reduction in poverty and a sharp increase in purchasing power. As a result, severe poverty has been virtually eradicated in Malaysia. Since 1998, when the economy contracted by 7.4 percent, the growth rate has been high. The only exception to this is 2001, the year in which the 11 September attacks took place in the United States. Malaysia's aspiration to become a fully developed and industrialised country by the year 2020 was launched in 1991 by then Prime Minister Mahathir as his 'Vision 2020'. This concept not only includes an economic component, but also aims at harmonious national development, a concept that has everything to do with the ethnic make-up of the Malaysian population.

In 2006, both the third Industrial Master Plan and the ninth Malaysia Plan were launched, both aimed at achieving Vision 2020. The Investment Promotion Act was intended to make the country attractive to foreign investors. However, not all sectors are open to foreign investors. Malaysia is liberalising step by step and it is now possible that companies in the industrial sector are 100 per cent owned by foreign companies. Various tax measures are in place to encourage investment in the country.

In 2017, economic growth is 5.9% and GDP per capita is $29,100 with less than 4% of the population living below the poverty line. Agriculture accounts for 8.8% of GDP, industry for 37.6% and services for 53.6%. Exports amount to $187.9 billion and imports to $160.7 billion. The main trading partners are China, Japan, Singapore and the United States.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated March 2024
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