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Malaysia Defence and Security Report Q4 2012

The Malaysia Defence and Security Report examines the countrys strategic position in South East Asia and the wider region. It provides an overview of the challenges facing the country in the context of regional concerns centring on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as well as potential domestic instability stemming from the Bersih movement for clean elections as the country gears up for national polls some time before April 2013.

The issue of corruption in the Malaysian defence establishment has already emerged as a key election issue, with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak abandoning plans to call early elections as he fights off allegations that a deal to procure French submarines dating back to the time when he was defence minister involved large-scale bribery and even murder. Several other major procurement programmes are also under scrutiny.

These corruption cases may only convince the Bersih movement to intensify its campaign. However, the state may respond to further demonstrations with familiar heavy-handedness after it emerged that Najibs new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act may not be the historic shift away from the repressive Internal Security Act that he had promised earlier in the year. Many commentators have expressed disappointment with weaknesses in the legislation which, they argue, mean that the state retains the right to deal harshly with its opponents.

Regionally, Malaysia has remained largely on the sidelines of territorial disputes between China and some South East Asian countries, notably the Philippines and Vietnam. However, the situation has produced a serious rift within ASEAN, and that is a major concern for Malaysia and all the other members of the organisation, which has underpinned regional security for several decades.

Over the last quarter we have revised the following forecasts/views: - As Malaysia prepares for its most eagerly anticipated elections in many years, we have examined Prime Minister Najibs decision to pull back from early elections, as well as his failure to deliver fully on his pledge to revise the countrys internal security laws so as to allow more political space to the opposition.

- The scandal surrounding the acquisition of two French Scorpene submarines in 2002 - the main factor in Najibs decision against calling a snap election - is also discussed in detail. The controversy promises to have serious ramifications both for the defence sector, for the involvement of foreign firms in the Malaysian market, and also for domestic politics.

- The progress of several important military procurement programmes is updated. These include the acquisition of new airborne early warning and control aircraft, which is now likely to be handled ahead of the procurement of a new multirole combat aircraft. The three contenders for that contract - Boeing, Dassault and Eurofighter - are all jockeying for position for what is a relatively small, but still much coveted, order.

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