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"Public sentiment ran against the ruling party, although media reports showed otherwise.."
- Idlan Zakaria

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Malaysia

Election analysis from an ordinary Malaysian
by Idlan R. Zakaria, 22, Selangor, Malaysia
Dec 7, 1999

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It was always going to be exciting, this latest election. In the light of the sacking of the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim last year, the then-current government led by Dr. Mahathir had come under intense fire. Not only did the people of Malaysia retaliate, even some other countries also openly showed their displeasure at the event.

Anwar Ibrahim's wife, Wan Azizah proceeded to establish a political party which fought for fairness and justice, aptly named Keadilan, which is Malay for justice. Barisan Nasional (National Front), the coalition of parties that ruled Malaysia since Independence in 1957, had never looked as shaky as they were in the past year.

Seeing the current backlash against the government as an opportunity not to be missed, the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), who had long been standing in the wings, formed a coalition with the Democratic Action Party (DAP, the Malaysian People's Party (PRM) and the Keadilan Party to form Barisan Alternatif (the Alternative Front). (This, of course, didn't happen overnight, but in the course of the last 14 months or so.)

And so, the stage was set for the 1999 General Elections. Public sentiment ran against the ruling party, although media reports showed otherwise. In effect, Barisan Nasional (BN) was really threatened for the first time.

However, it had been more than a whole year since Anwar Ibrahim had been arrested, tried and sentenced. The wave of emotion surrounding him had subsided, and most people just carried on with their lives as usual. It looked like a good time for BN to call for an election.

Were the elections fair?

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