Furthermore, the influx of Chinese and Indian labour during this period led to a more diverse population than the ethnic Malays alone. Britain’s possession of its Malayan colonies was effectively ended by Japanese occupation during the second world war and although it was keen to embark upon withdrawal within the context of the ailing post-war UK economy, it waged a six-year war against Communist insurgents, who having formed the resistance against the Japanese then viewed independence as their military goal. Malaysia emerged independent against a wider backdrop of British imperial retreat in the early 1960s however.Malaysia is a constitutional elective monarchy, chosen for five years among the nine sultans. Malaysia’s federal government is constituted along the same lines as the Westminster model adopted by many former British colonies, but in practice the executive has come to dominate political affairs.
The parliament, located in the capital Kuala Lumpur, consists of two houses – the Chamber of the Nation and the Chamber of the People. The Chamber of the Nation, or Senate, consists of 69 senators who sit for six year terms, 43 appointed by the king and 26 from the states. The lower house’s 193 representatives are elected from single member divisions for up to five years and by universal adult suffrage (21 years and over). The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the king as the leader of the majority party or coalition, must sit in the lower house. Since independence in 1957, the United Malays National Organisation has dominated its politics and since 1973 governed alongside other parties, though the Prime Minister has always come from the UMNO. Under Article 153 of its constitution, Malays are accorded certain political and civil privileges. Malaysia’s media is also tightly controlled by the government through the issuing of printing licences.
There are two types of urban council: city councils and municipalities.All types of local government perform the same functions. Municipalities can be upgraded to cities once they satisfy the required criteria. There are nine city councils, 34 municipal councils and 101 district councils. However, cities are led by mayors, while municipalities and districts are led by presidents. The state governments, elected every five years, appoint mayors, presidents and all councillors. The appointments are for three-year terms, but individuals may be reappointed. This is uniform across the country. The council decision-making process is through a committee structure determined by the local authority, including the committees provided for in legislation.
Executive powers lie with the mayor in the city councils, and presidents in the municipal and district councils.