At a Glance:
Year became a federation: 1957
Current constitution in force since:
Constituent units: 13 states, 3 federal territories
Head of State: King
Head of Government: Prime Minister
Legislature: Parliament (consists of both Senate and House of Representatives)
Our work in Malaysia
Beginning in 2006, the Forum worked with local partners in Malaysia to organize several learning events such as Global Dialogue country roundtables - one on foreign relations and another on political parties and civil society in federal countries.
Federalism in Malaysia
This Southeast Asian nation of 26 million is the only federal country between India and Australia.
After more than 50 years of one-party rule based on a multi-ethnic alliance, Malaysia’s governing National Front finally faced its first serious challenge in 2008 when the opposition won control in five of the 13 state legislatures. Pressure for greater federalism – starting with demands for the federal government to stop certain centralizing moves – has begun to come from the state legislatures, especially those held by the opposition.
The Federation of Malaysia is composed of 13 states and three Federal Territories, having evolved from the pattern of British rule based on treaties with Malay sultanate states. In 1948, the British territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak joined the federation.
A contest between the federal authorities and those of Singapore led in 1965 to a Constitution Amendment bill that expelled Singapore. A constitutional crisis in 1969 resulted in the proscriptive Sedition Act that overrides the balance of powers in the federal system.
Federal authorities had consistently relied upon their power to amend the constitution to enforce their view on any matters of dispute in the federal system, a power that ended after 2008 when they lost their 2/3 majority in parliament.
* Development assistance program countries