The 9 May 2018 elections brought the first change of government in Malaysia after 61 years. Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) led the orientation of the newly elected MPs and a round-table on future reforms chaired by the Speaker. The new government vowed to ‘Restore the Dignity of Parliament’ in its manifesto Promise 16 which had paved way for parliamentary reforms. In this context and drawing on internal and external expertise, WFD is working with the Malaysian parliament to embed institutional reforms.
These reforms are aimed to strengthen parliament at the centre of the country’s political life and make it relevant to the people it serves. The reform-focused interventions of WFD include enhancing capacity of the Parliamentary staff to support Members, providing technical support and guidance to the newly formed parliamentary committees and establishing accountable and inclusive parliamentary processes and systems.
The inclusion of women’s participation in politics is also an area that is continuing to develop in the country. As part of the broader Commonwealth Partnership for Development (CP4D) initiative, WFD is working with a local CSO to promote gender equality in Sabah and creating linkages with other CSOs as they develop advocacy strategies to raise awareness about gender issues. Low political representation of women, only 10% in the State Legislative Assembly, is a key driver of WFD’s work in Sabah.
The 9 May 2018 elections brought the first change of government in Malaysia after 61 years. Promise 16 “Restore the Dignity of the Parliament outlined by the new government in its manifesto has created space for the parliament to parliament to initiate institutional reforms. The new government has had to deal with several key issues in a complex political environment that are crucial to Malaysia political stability and for laying the foundation for longer term institutional reforms. The challenge before the government is clear; to develop a reform agenda that is owned, driven and responds to national demands.
More than 32 million people will be affected by legislation and laws that are passed in the Parliament. Strengthening the national Parliament will allow the August house to play its role effectively, as a governmental institution with oversight functions, ready to lend legitimacy to the executive.
WFD has contributed to the reform-agenda by sharing parliamentary developments and innovations from its network, always ensuring that the reforms implemented are informed by the social and political environment and respond to changes occurring in the local context. Working with the MPs, committees and parliamentary staff, WFD programs seek to build the technical capacity of the parliament and encourage MPs to engage effectively with the people they represent.
Drawing on the Westminster experience, WFD has conducted capacity building training and workshops for the parliamentary staff and officers from the research department share information and knowledge on relevant processes and procedures.
WFD is also providing technical expertise to the relatively new select committee system in the Malaysian Parliament to support MPs to use the parliamentary process effectively. This includes the job scope and roles for chairs and members of committees, management of issues, planning and running of meetings and division of work.
WFD is working in the state of Sabah to build communication and leadership skills among women to enable them to get their voices and messages for change heard by decision makers and legislators. Women participation in the state is low; there are only six women representatives (out of 60) in the State Legislative Assembly. Only one is a full minister while there are three assistant ministers in the state cabinet. In addition, there are no Sabah women to be appointed as Federal Minister.