According to itypeusa, Malaysia is a federal state consisting mainly of the island of Borneo, to the east, and the western peninsula, on which the capital, Kuala Lumpur, is located. The peninsular part and Indonesia are divided by the Strait of Malacca, a strategic navigation route between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which for centuries has attracted the interests of the Portuguese, Dutch and English.
Since the late 1960s, and throughout the Cold War, Malaysia’s international policy choices have remained on ‘non-alignment’. The government has tried to keep channels open with both the Western and Soviet blocs. In particular, it was the United Kingdom, from which Malaysia gained independence in 1946, which guaranteed security until 1967. Relations with China, North Korea and Vietnam were also continuous. On the contrary, despite good trade relations, the United States has always found Malaysia an obstacle in terms of influence in Southeast Asia. Kuala Lumpur has always worked to avoid conflicts with neighboring states, for example by stemming the problems created by the massive immigration from Indonesia, which supplies the country with most of the foreign workforce. In parallel, Malaysia tends to maintain good relations with Thailand, whose southern regions are threatened by some armed groups belonging to the Malaysian minority.
Singapore, the city-state on the southern tip of the peninsula, is now one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners. The first visit of a Malaysian head of state to Singapore, however, took place only 28 years after the latter’s independence, which took place in 1957 and only in 2001 the two countries resolved the most important bilateral disputes. The start of a railway connection project with Kuala Lumpur indicates growing economic interaction. The importance of economic-trade relations is also the basis of relations between Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China, with which a free trade treaty was signed in 2012. Chinese President Xi Jinping also promised new investments. A similar agreement was also made with Australia at the same time.
The Malaysian commitment to greater cooperation with the countries of the region is well demonstrated by the activity within the ASEAN, the regional organization of the states of Southeast Asia, of which the country is the founder and one of the main supporters. An important agreement is expected to enter into force in 2016 to create a single market between the organisation’s countries, which will be the first step in an ambitious regional economic integration program.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy, made up of 13 states and a federal district (which includes Kuala Lumpur, Labuan Island, and Putrajaya). Each state is governed by an elected Legislative Assembly and its own executive. At the head of nine of the 13 states there is a sultan who acquires the title by inheritance, while in the remaining four a governor is appointed. The autonomy of the federated states is limited by the Constitution and the legislative functions are shared between them and the central elective institutions. At the top of the federal state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the sultan, who has an essentially ceremonial role; the legislative power is instead exercised by a bicameral parliament, made up of a non-elective upper house and a lower house, democratically elected.
The leader of the party that obtains the electoral majority in the parliamentary elections becomes prime minister and has the right to appoint the council of ministers, selecting its members from among the members of the two chambers. Since 1955, the date of the first legislative elections, the political scene has been dominated by the Alliance Party and the National Front (Barisan Nasional, Bn), which succeeded it in 1973: two multi-party coalitions that include ethnic Malaysian, Indian and Chinese.
The latest elections were held in May 2013 and confirmed the Bn coalition in power with 133 out of 222 seats. Within the coalition, however, there are various currents with different ideas about national economic policy. In addition, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has recently been overwhelmed by a series of corruption scandals that have sparked strong protests. If on the one hand the ruling coalition seems weakened, on the other the opposition appears divided and unable to present a valid alternative to the Bn, thus increasing the risk of political instability.
The Malays form an ethnic group widespread in various countries of Southeast Asia, and especially in Malaysia, where they dominate politically. They are the product of a series of migrations, which took place over the centuries, from southern China and Indochina throughout Southeast Asia. The populations that would later be called Malays began in the 5th century. to control the local trade of that vast region and the longer-range maritime trade between China and India. They founded numerous kingdoms (including Srīvijaya), and this contributed to the spread of their language over a large territory. In the 15th century. Islam began to spread among them, which would later become the main component of Malaysian cultural identity, fully developed only in the first thirty years of the 19th century.