Apr 1, 2008

Opposition Parties Form Formal Coalition To Pose Stronger Challenge To Government

The People's Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) is an unlikely coalition of three parties - Islamic, multiethnic and Chinese-based have agreed to uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysia's three ideologically diverse opposition parties formed a formal coalition Tuesday (1 Apr) after their unofficial partnership made spectacular gains against the ruling party in recent elections.

The People's Alliance, an unlikely coalition of three parties - Islamic, multiethnic and Chinese-based have agreed to "uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians," said de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

"We are committed to the reform program ... respecting basic human rights, the principle of justice, freedom of expression and also on the Malaysian economic agenda for all," he said.

Anwar's multiethnic People's Justice Party collaborated with the secular Chinese-based Democratic Action Party and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party during the 8 March general elections. By putting up a common candidate in each constituency, the three parties avoided multi-cornered contests that had divided opposition votes in the past.

As a result, the opposition parties denied the ruling National Front coalition its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority and increased their share from 19 to 82 seats in parliament. The National Front also lost in five of 13 states, where the opposition parties have now formed governments.

"The people would like to see the three parties work together to bring change," said Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party. "This is a new political reality."

The three parties say they are equal partners and there is no leader.

Their biggest challenge was to bring the Democratic Action Party under one roof with the Islamic party, which draws its support from conservative Malays and whose stated goal has been to set up an Islamic state.

The three parties' leaders said they would work together to achieve their shared goals of justice, democracy and good governance. One of their biggest election promises was to fight corruption.

"A common stance is a priority ... Whatever (Islamic laws) we can implement, we will implement. But we will respect the other religions as well," said Abdul Hadi Awang, president of the Islamic party.

The multiethnic alliance also hopes to end the racial tensions that have flared up recently. Ethnic Chinese and Indians, who make up a third of the country's 27 million people, have complained that the government discriminates against them in favor of the majority Muslim Malays.

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