The Penang effect

The Economist
Apr 28th 2013, 6:53 by Banyan | SINGAPORE

THE story of Lim Guan Eng, chief minister of the Malaysian state of Penang, tells much about how Malaysian politics has been transformed in recent years. Mr Lim heads the Democratic Action Party or DAP, a member of the three-party opposition coalition hoping to wrest power from the ruling Barisan Nasional in a general election on May 5th.

This is the first time since independence from Britain in 1957 that the opposition has a genuine—if still outside—chance of winning a federal-government election. That follows its startling advance in the previous general election in 2008, when, as this year, 12 of Malaysia’s 13 states held simultaneous elections. One of the opposition’s triumphs was to win the thriving state of Penang, an island off the west coast famous for its electronics and tourism industries.

So Mr Lim took up perhaps the highest-profile establishment position ever held by an opposition politician in Malaysia. This was quite a step up from his past as a jailbird. In 1998 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “sedition” and “spreading false news”. The offence dated back to 1995 when he spoke out about a case in which a 15-year-old girl named 15 men with whom she had had sex. Of these 14 were charged with statutory rape. The 15th, a senior politician, was not.

Such apparent injustices seemed to run in his family. His father, Lim Kit Siang, also led the DAP, which draws most of its support from Malaysia’s ethnic-Chinese minority. He was twice jailed under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, first in 1969, after the country suffered its worst race riots, and again in 1987 when the authoritarian prime minister of the time, Mahathir Mohamad, used a row about Chinese-language education as a pretext to lock up dozens of critics. Dr Mahathir was impervious to foreign criticism of this act of repression, and a decade later, equally indifferent to the international outrage at Lim Guan Eng’s fate.

The elder Mr Lim is also back on the stump for this election, contesting a seat in one of Barisan’s strongholds, the southern state of Johor. The Lims are able to point to Penang to counter one of the government’s most strident arguments: that the opposition is untested in office, rash in its promises and its victory would be followed by a collapse in investor confidence. In fact, under the DAP, Penang has impressed outside observers. The opposition’s confidence that it will win the federal election may be for show. But the certainty the DAP expresses about retaining Penang seems real.

  1. #1 by rjbeee on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 4:27 pm

    The days for Mahathir are numbered..Sungai Buloh is waiting…….

  2. #2 by Winston on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 5:41 pm

    The opposition’s confidence that it will win the federal election may be for show. – End of quote

    The author of this article must be from outer
    Just hang around for a while and you’ll see
    the contradiction of your words!

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 6:19 pm

    You really have to congratulate Mahathir, his boy Najib has turned Malaysia JUST LIKE AFRICA like Zimbabwe and Sudan with the kind of blatant vote buying they are doing in broad daylight e.g. in Pandamaran yesterday…

  4. #4 by Bunch of Suckers on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 6:30 pm

    The opposition’s confidence that it will win the federal election may be for show.

    Even the foreign journalists also doubt about it as Malaysia politics are dirty with bunch of BN suckers doing all kinds of dirty tricks, cheats and means to win and hold onto the powers forever…

  5. #5 by bumi-non-malay on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 6:44 pm

    Better Pakatan win all the states and BN CHEAT to win Federal……..then the FUN Begins!!!

    Bila Pakatan mentakbir kat Putra Jaya…kita boleh lakukan Unity government kat seluruh peringkat bermula dari semua negeri.

    Saya tak akan RISIKO kan peluang ke-emasan untuk TURUNKAN minyat, Belajar PERCUMA kat Institusi tinggi dan HAPUSKAN TOL demi kepentingan UMNO-BN-PBB-PBS!! ABU – UBAH!!

    UBAH Kerajaan adalah satu amalan yang baik. Penang, selangor, kelantan, …dll … berapa Juta Melayu Islam mati kerana penukaran Kerajaan ADUN negeri? Bukalah mata…harga minyak turun + takde Tol…saya jimat $5,000 setahun…..Batalkan AP, kereta Baru lagi turun..Jimat lagi $30,000 ringgit….tak payah bayar kos sekolah ….jimat $1500…..

    Berapa kali x 1BRM kita sudah rakyat dapat dengan SATU ABU – UBAH??

  6. #6 by Loh on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 6:47 pm

    ///即时新闻 吉隆坡 蔡细历驳斥“首相署包机载送可疑选民”的指控,并挑战安华杯葛这届大选///–Malaysiakini

    Chua Soi Lek must be hoping that he can fool people into giving up the election so that BN can win without a fight. He is stupid alright to make that suggestion, and he should have respect for others that people are not as stupid as he is.

  7. #7 by Loh on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 6:56 pm

    BN through its agent, the so-called 1Malaysia welfare NGO is dumping money, to pay for LGE to lose in his state and federal constituencies. It is said that those who bet LGE losing will get 500 RM with 100 RM in advance payment. With 10 million RM, the group hopes to get 100,000 voters to bet, and they will not pay the balance 400 RM whatever the outcome.

    100 RM can buy the future of one voter; if Penang voters fall into the trap. The future of the generations to come is worth much more than that.

  8. #8 by cseng on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 7:04 pm

    ‘Khong Kham’ Economist?

    //The opposition’s confidence that it will win the federal election may be for show.//

    If this is not for real, why LKS and all those DAP big guns are in Johor, for what? this is for real, ini-kali-lah! Ubah is real.

  9. #9 by cseng on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 7:10 pm

    We are Penangites, you guys must have faith with Penangites, when we delivered 308 to DAP, we will deliver much more this round.

    Regardless if BN outsource racism to Perkasa, outsource corruption to 1 Malaysia club… Penangites know they are borrowing our watch to tell us the time.

    Penang will deliver, the same goes to johorean and sabahan…. we will deliver Ubah……

  10. #10 by penang lim on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 7:57 pm

    Yes Penang will deliver – YB Lim Guan Eng is the hero in the eyes of penangites – UBAH is real…

  11. #11 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 8:43 pm

    Jom ubah. Undi PR

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 10:29 pm


  13. #13 by yhsiew on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Lim Guan Eng has laid a firm foundation for Penang upon becoming the state’s Chief Minister. Penangites’ future looks bright if they continue to support him.

  14. #14 by tuahpekkong on Thursday, 2 May 2013 - 11:26 pm

    “Of these 14 were charged with statutory rape. The 15th, a senior politician, was not.” Our judiciary is so unfair, powerful politicians can escape punishment for their wrongdoings. In Singapore, scores of the rich and famous were convicted to jail terms over the past few months for having paid sex with an underage prostitute.

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Friday, 3 May 2013 - 2:40 pm

    Bcos of Penang’s voters support of PR/DAP/PKR/PAS in 2008, Penangites are enjoying special treats from corrupt UmnoB/BN n 1 Malaysia Penang Welfare Club

    Free money, foods, gifts, parties, shows, etc n wonderful promises r thrown at Penangites (一马组织银弹攻势)

    So, Johor, NS, Melaka, Pahang, Sabah, S’wak voters, JUST VOTE 4 PR candidates on 505 so dat 5 years fr now you can also enjoy all d above goodies

    Y 1 Malaysia Welfare Club (一马组织) so rich 1?
    Mayb $$$ actually fr rakyat’s pockets (given through UmnoB/BN)
    Also, UmnoB/BN n 一马组织 kakis hope dat UmnoB/BN will WIN back Pg n S’gor states on 505
    They know dat Pg n S’gor states hv BIG $$$$ as RESERVES (courtesy of both PR state gomens) n, as always their CORRUPT DNA, they want 2 GRAB d $$$$ 4 themselves after re-gaining power

    Rakyat n voters, DON’T b fooled/blinded by d free goodies offered by UmnoB/BN n 1 Malaysia Welfare Club (一马组织银弹攻势) during pre-GE13

    If unfortunately UmnoB/BN WIN again on 505, rakyat GOING 2 SUFFER lah

  16. #16 by boh-liao on Friday, 3 May 2013 - 2:48 pm

    Rakyat n voters, DON’T b fooled/blinded by d free goodies offered by UmnoB/BN n 1 Malaysia Welfare Club (一马组织银弹攻势) during pre-GE13

    Enjoy d goodies BUT VOTE 4 PR

    HABU UBAH (Hey, Anything But UmnoB/BN, UBAH), nice palindrome, n also ABCD (Anything But Chap Dacing)

    Remember, 505 CHANGE gomen; 506, NEW PR gomen!
    Kali ini lah, UBAH! Listen, listen, listen: It’s NOW or Never, YES NOW!

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