By PHILIP BOWRING
Malaysia is a lucky country but not at present a happy one, a worrying situation for a Muslim-majority nation that needs to balance democracy and free choice with religious and racial harmony.
Malaysia is lucky because its abundance of resources has enabled the economy to keep growing. It is unhappy because its politics are between a rock and a hard place.
Malaysia badly needs a break from 52 years of sometimes authoritarian and corrupt rule by a coalition of race-based parties headed by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which controls most levers of power and money.
Yet that change may not come any time soon. The opposition coalition, headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, made huge gains in 2008 elections but is finding it difficult to bridge divisions between Malays in the Islamic Party (PAS), ethnically self-conscious Chinese and Indians in the left-leaning Democratic Action Party, and disgruntled moderate Malays and liberals of all races in Anwar’s Keadilan party.
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