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MALAYSIA HEADING TOWARDS CLOSEST EVER POLL

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - When Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin (photo) told his audience at an academic conference in Singapore that there was a chance Malaysia's opposition would take power in this year's elections, he had no idea that his analysis would trigger such a furore back home.
Azrul, chief economist with Malaysia's Bank Islam, outlined three possible scenarios for the parliamentary polls likely to be held in March, almost at the end of the current government's five year term.
There was a "high probability", his research suggested, that Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of opposition parties led by Anwar Ibrahim (photo), would win a tiny majority - an outcome that would mean a change in government for the first time since Malaysia gained its independence five decades ago.
A few days later, Azrul found himself suspended from his job at the bank.
  • "It seems I'm in hot soup," Azrul told Al Jazeera by phone. "Politics may have an impact on the economy in general, right? I had three parts to my report and the third was on the political outlook. I don't understand the reaction."
  • Azrul said that he believed his bosses may have come under political pressure.
  • The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has dominated Malaysia's politics since independence, but is still working out how to adapt to a rapidly changing country a decade after the retirement of  long-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir centralised power and cracked down on those who opposed him - even within his own party.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has since been trying to make Malaysia more open and democratic, but his attempts at political and economic reform - including a bold move to repeal repressive colonial-era laws - have largely failed to excite a new generation of younger, internet-savvy Malaysians, who doubt that the party shares its leader's enthusiasm for change.


Source: Al Jazeera
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