Giving federalism a future


The Malayan Union of 1946 collapsed under pressure from the sultans and the United Malays National Organisation, and gave way to the Federation of Malaya in 1948. While the use of the term “federation” was an acknowledgement that the country was too diverse to be a union, central power continued growing, even after the Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963.

ALTHOUGH MALAYSIA officially practises federalism, the central government has over the years been tightening the terms of power-sharing across the tiers. This has ever more interesting dimensions now that the opposition governs Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan. (The status of government in Perak is debatable.)

What effects have this predominantly centralised form of federalism had on the way Pakatan Rakyat states operate? How have states like Penang and Selangor responded to this situation? What choices are available to them, given current limitations?

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