Constitutional change in Malaysia

H. P. Lee, Richard Foo, Amber Tan

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In Malaysia, until recently, the process of constitutional change has been used on many occasions to amend the Constitution and progressively weaken constitutionalism and the rule of law. The Constitution came into force first in 1957 as the governing instrument of the Federation of Malaya upon national independence from Britain, and, again in 1963, as the Constitution of the enlarged federation renamed Malaysia. In the six decades from 1957 until 2018, the same ruling party - a coalition called the Alliance, which, in 1973, expanded to become the Barisan Nasional - had continuously formed the government. During the first five decades, the government had held a greater than two-thirds majority in Parliament and was able to amend the Constitution extensively, until it lost that two-thirds majority in the twelth General Election in 2008. The Barisan Nasional was finally swept from power in the fourteenth General Election on 9 May 2018 and another coalition named the Pakatan Harapan became the government.
This article examines the main constitutional amendments and other developments related to constitutional change over that period. These include amendments that sought to demarcate the limits of constitutional monarchy in the country, amendments that amplified the powers of the executive government, amendments that conversely undermined the constitutional roles of Parliament and the courts, and, generally, amendments that removed or weakened the safeguards embodied in the Constitution to ensure democratic and rule of law government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-138
Number of pages20
JournalThe Journal of Comparative Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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