Government in Malaysia

General Information

Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The system of government is closely modeled on that of the Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule. The head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King. The King is elected to a five-year term by and from among the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection. By informal agreement the position is systematically rotated among the nine Sultans. The King’s role has been mostly ceremonial since changes to the constitution in 1994.

Executive power is vested in the cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Representatives, who in the opinion of the King, commands a majority in Parliament. The cabinet is chosen from members of both houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister is both the head of cabinet and the head of government.

Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral federal Parliament consists of the lower house, the House of Representatives and the upper house, the Senate. The 222-member House of Representatives is elected for a maximum term of five years from single-member constituencies. All 70 senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and the remaining 44 are appointed by the King upon the Prime Minister’s recommendation. The Parliament follows a multi-party system and the government is elected through a first-past-the-post system. Since independence Malaysia has been governed by a multi-party coalition, known as the Barisan Nasional.

Each state has a unicameral State Legislative Assembly whose members are elected from single-member constituencies. State governments are led by Chief Ministers, who are state assembly members from the majority party in the assembly. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is required to be a Malay, appointed by the ruler upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years, the most recent of which took place in March 2008 Registered voters of age 21 and above may vote for the members of the House of Representatives and, in most of the states, for the state legislative chamber. Voting is not mandatory. Except for elections in Sarawak, all state elections are held concurrently with the federal election.

Malaysia’s legal system is based on English Common Law. Although the judiciary is theoretically independent, its independence has been called into question and the appointment of judges lacks accountability and transparency. The highest court in the judicial system is the Federal Court, followed by the Court of Appeal and two high courts, one for Peninsular Malaysia and one for East Malaysia. Malaysia also has a special court to hear cases brought by or against Royalty. Separate from the civil courts are the Syariah Courts, which apply Shariah law to cases which involve Malaysian Muslims and run parallel to the secular court system.

Overview

Country name

Conventional long form: none
Conventional short form: Malaysia
Local long form: none
Local short form: Malaysia
Former: Federation of Malaya

Government type

Type: constitutional monarchy

Note: nominally headed by paramount ruler (commonly referred to as the King) and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a non-elected upper house and an elected lower house; all Peninsular Malaysian states have hereditary rulers (commonly referred to as Sultans) except Malacca and Penang; those two states along with Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia have governors appointed by government; powers of state governments are limited by federal constitution; under terms of federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g. right to maintain their own immigration controls)

Capital :
name: Kuala Lumpur
geographic coordinates: 3 10 N, 101 42 E
time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Putrajaya is referred to as administrative centre not capital; Parliament meets in Kuala Lumpur

Administrative divisions :
13 states (negeri-negeri, singular – negeri) Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu; and 1 federal territory (Wilayah Persekutuan) with three components, city of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, and Putrajaya

Independence :
31 August 1957 (from the UK)

National holiday :
Independence Day 31 August (1957) (independence of Malaya); Malaysia Day 16 September (1963) (formation of Malaysia)

Constitution :
31 August 1957; amended many times the latest in 2007

Legal system :
mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation

International law organisation participation :
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Suffrage :
21 years of age; universal

Executive branch :
chief of state: King – Tuanku Abdul HALIM Mu’adzam Shah (since 13 December 2011); the position of the king is primarily ceremonial
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed NAJIB bin Abdul Razak (since 3 April 2009); Deputy Prime Minister MUHYIDDIN bin Mohamed Yassin (since 9 April 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the king
elections: kings elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; selection based on principle of rotation among rulers of states; election last held on 14 October 2011 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader who commands the support of the majority of members in the House becomes prime minister (since independence this has been the leader of the UMNO party)

Election results: Tuanku Abdul HALIM Mu’adzam Shah elected king

Legislative branch :
bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of Senate or Dewan Negara (70 seats; 44 members appointed by the king, 26 elected by 13 state legislatures to serve three-year terms with a two term limit) and House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (222 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve up to five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives – last held on 8 March 2008 (next to be held by June 2013)
election results: House of Representatives – percent of vote – BN coalition 50.3%, opposition parties 46.8%, others 2.9%; seats – BN coalition 140, opposition parties 82; (seats by party as of March 2011 – BN coalition 137, opposition parties 76, independents 9)

Judicial branch :
civil courts include Federal Court, Court of Appeal, High Court of Malaya on peninsula Malaysia, and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in states of Borneo (judges are appointed by the king on the advice of the prime minister); shariah courts include Shariah Appeal Court, Shariah High Court, and Shariah Subordinate Courts at state-level and deal with religious and family matters such as custody, divorce, and inheritance only for Muslims; decisions of shariah courts cannot be appealed to civil courts

Political parties and leaders :
National Front (Barisan Nasional) or BN (ruling coalition) consists of the following parties: Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia Party or PGRM [KOH Tsu Koon]; Liberal Democratic Party (Parti Liberal Demokratik – Sabah) or LDP [LIEW Vui Keong]; Malaysian Chinese Association (Persatuan China Malaysia) or MCA [CHUA Soi Lek]; Malaysian Indian Congress (Kongres India Malaysia) or MIC [Govindasamy PALANIVEL]; Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah or PBRS [Joseph KURUP]; Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS [Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan]; Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu or PBB [Abdul TAIB Mahmud]; Parti Rakyat Sarawak or PRS [James MASING]; Sarawak United People’s Party (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sarawak) or SUPP [George CHAN Hong Nam]; United Malays National Organization or UMNO [NAJIB bin Abdul Razak]; United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organization (Pertubuhan Pasko Momogun Kadazan Dusun Bersatu) or UPKO [Bernard DOMPOK]; People’s Progressive Party (Parti Progresif Penduduk Malaysia) or PPP [M.Kayveas]; Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party or SPDP [William MAWAN])
People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) or PR (opposition coalition) consists of the following parties: Democratic Action Party (Parti Tindakan Demokratik) or DAP [KARPAL Singh]; Islamic Party of Malaysia (Parti Islam se Malaysia) or PAS [Abdul HADI Awang]; People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) or PKR [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismail]; Sarawak National Party or SNAP [Edwin DUNDANG]
independent party: Sabah Progressive Party (Parti Progresif Saban) or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee]

Political pressure groups and leaders :
Bar Council; BERSIH (electoral reform coalition); PEMBELA (Muslim NGO coalition); PERKASA (defense of Malay rights)
other: religious groups; women’s groups; youth groups

International organisation participation :
ADB, APEC, ARF, ASEAN, BIS, C, CICA (observer), CP, D-8, EAS, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURSO, MONUSCO, NAM, OIC, OPCW, PCA, PIF (partner), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMIT, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US :
chief of mission: Ambassador JAMALUDIN Jarjis
chancery: 3516 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 572-9700
fax: [1] (202) 572-9882
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US :
chief of mission: Ambassador Paul W. JONES
embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
mailing address: US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535-8152
telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000
fax: [60] (3) 2142-2207

Flag description :
14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow 14-pointed star; the flag is often referred to as Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Glory); the 14 stripes stand for the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal government; the 14 points on the star represent the unity between these entities; the crescent is a traditional symbol of Islam; blue symbolizes the unity of the Malay people and yellow is the royal color of Malay rulers
note: the design is based on the flag of the US

National symbol(s):
tiger

National anthem :
name: “Negaraku” (My Country)
lyrics/music: collective, led by Tunku ABDUL RAHMAN/Pierre Jean DE BERANGER
note: adopted 1957; the full version is only performed in the presence of the king; the tune, which was adopted from a popular French melody titled “La Rosalie”, was originally the anthem of the state of Perak

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