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Title: Sarawak state elections 2016 : revisiting federalism in Malaysia
Authors: Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman
Rashaad Ali
Keywords: Malaysia
Social sciences::General
Issue Date: 2017
Source: Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, & Rashaad Ali. (2017). Sarawak state elections 2016 : revisiting federalism in Malaysia. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 36(1), 29-50. doi:10.1177/186810341703600102
Series/Report no.: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs
Abstract: The recent state elections in the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak in 2016 saw the ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional, secure a comfortable victory through its component party, the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, led by the late Adenan Satem, who passed away suddenly on 11 January 2017. A key theme of Adenan's election campaign was greater autonomy for the state of Sarawak, while he also distanced himself from the troubles of the Najib Razak administration and the federal government. This paper seeks to examine the Sarawak state elections within the context of Malaysia's federalism. We argue that the state elections highlight how a lack of popularity and weakened federal government has allowed states to exercise more leverage in order to gain greater influence and autonomy, strengthening the original federal agreement of 1963 while inadvertently weakening the centre. We argue that Malaysia's claim to be a federation is largely superficial, as much power constitutionally rests with the federal government at the expense of state autonomy. This is demonstrated through both an examination of federalism as a broad concept and a brief history of centre–state relations in Malaysia. This paper posits that further “bargaining” by states with the federal government during election campaigns may be possible if the centre continues to exhibit political weakness.
ISSN: 1868-4882
DOI: 10.1177/186810341703600102
Rights: © 2017 The Author(s). This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work as published without adaptation or alteration, provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:RSIS Journal Articles

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