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Southeast Asia

Can the unthinkable become reality in Malaysia?

Since May, when the country had its 'Berlin Wall moment' – putting an end to its virtual one-party state – economic and political signs have been positive… but inevitably there are looming flashpoints.

Mahathir-Mohamad-Malaysia-R-780

One to watch: Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad



As a Malaysian Bob Dylan might have put it: “The times, they are a-changin’.”

And how, in the country that likes to describe itself as ‘Truly Asian’, and which is one of the region’s pivotal economies.

For a start, there is an ethnic Chinese economist heading the finance ministry. An Indian – and a Christian too – attorney-general presides over the Muslim-majority nation’s legal system. Malay hero Anwar Ibrahim is not just free but pardoned, and free to run for office. And it was all made possible by Anwar’s old mentor-cum-rival Mahathir Mohamad, who decided to bat for the other team this time, and won the premiership. Again.

As that new finance minister Lim Guan Eng likes to say, the election on May 9 was his country’s Berlin Wall moment, putting an end to Malaysia’s 61 years as a virtual one-party state and allowing the unthinkable to become reality.

Mahathir 2.0’s first months have been bold and sure-footed. The lust of the public for official accountability, if not blood, has been sated by the prompt re-opening of probes into the government corruption scandal that most disgusted them, the 1MDB outrage, as well as various other scams unearthed since the poll.