Sunday 23 Sep 2018 | 12:10 | SYDNEY
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Malaysia

Mahathir redux: the past guides the future

Impulsive yet calculating, persuasive but often authoritarian, a visionary obsessed with details, Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister from 1981-2003 undoubtedly left a deep imprint on Malaysia. Credible achievements marked his tenure, including prudent macroeconomic management,

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, trade deals and TPP

Development lesson Australia can probably thank China’s amorphous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for helping push over the line the bilateral trade agreement that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will claim as his first diplomatic triumph on Friday. The key breakthrough in the agreement is set to

Decoding the Mahathir Doctrine

Since returning to power after his stunning election victory in May 2018, the 93–year–old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made a series of comments reflective of weaker states’ views of the evolving Asian order in the Trump–Xi era. These include a firmer stance on the South

Malaysia: Mahathir navigates the region

Malaysia is not usually a country that comes to mind when one thinks of where the geopolitical initiative lies in the Asia-Pacific. That accolade goes first to China, of course, the rising power in the region, and second to Japan, the state most capable of leading any regional counter-initiative

The Sabah question

Who is right in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah is a question best not asked. In answer, each side will reaffirm their absolute sovereign claim to Sabah, on the northern part of the island of Borneo, and mutual recriminations will result. Not asking

The big clean-up in Malaysia

While the world is watching Malaysia, trying to explain the unexpected victory of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in last month’s elections, what is actually more important is the massive clean-up currently underway in the country. By clean-up, I mean a near-total replacement of all key

Malaysia: what now?

Malaysians have rejected Barisan Nasional so overwhelmingly that the electoral system designed to protect its rule has been overcome. The party received its lowest popular vote in history, around 36%, and won only 79 seats in a 222-seat federal parliament. The once multiracial coalition has

Did an election just cause Malaysian democratisation?

What a difference an election makes. Malaysia’s 14th general elections on Wednesday were understood by all observers to be a close-fought battle between the long-ruling Barisan Nasional regime, the Islamist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and a new opposition coalition named Pakatan Harapan (

Malaysia election: coming of age

It has been 20 years since I spent the evening at former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s house after he was sacked by then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. That night, I thought the mood on the street outside meant Malaysia might be about to become a genuine multi-ethnic democracy. But

Malaysia’s political treadmill

Not many people give Malaysia’s opposition a chance of ending the 13-election winning streak of the ruling Barisan Nasional party when the country goes to the polls on Wednesday. “For a government to rule for 60 years in a democracy, it shows there is something wrong with the country,”

Najib makes electoral hay from ASEAN-Australia Summit

“Cak!” says the Malaysian meme circulating on Twitter since Monday. The Malay expression is often used with children, and means something like “Surprise!”, or, better, “Peekaboo!” In the background is a press photo from the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit which took place

Malaysia’s election – electric and exhausting

In media studios, food courts, street stalls, and offices, I watch Malaysian political observers and insiders perform the same routine. First, they sigh and look bored with the coming general election, due sometime before August. They talk of the lack of debate and point&