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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 15:52 GMT
Troubled start for Malaysian parliament

parliament walkout Less than a day old, but the opposition has had enough


By Frances Harrison in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's new parliament has got off to a troubled start, with the entire opposition walking out on the first day.

Malaysia's Snap Election
It is the first time the opposition has walked out before even taking the Oaths of Office.

All 45 opposition MPs left the house to protest at what they called the arrogance of the governing coalition in violating the constitution.

Their complaint is a technical one. The opposition says parliament can only be legally summoned on the advice of the cabinet, but the MPs say the cabinet met two days after the notice to summon the house was issued.

Leading the temporary walk-out, the new parliamentary opposition leader, Mohammed Fadzil Noor - head of the Islamic Party, PAS - said if the first session was so flawed, he feared for the rest.

The governing National Front coalition won more than a two-thirds majority in last month's elections.

Mr Fadzil said that just because the governing side had such a large majority, it didn't give them the right to violate the constitution.

But the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, hit back, saying the opposition had brought street brawling into parliament.

The symbolic walk-out by the opposition coalition may reflect a new assertiveness after elections in which opposition parties doubled their numbers in parliament.

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Malaysia's day of decision
22 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Wan Azizah: Malaysia's opposition torch-bearer
10 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Malaysia's strongman Mahathir
11 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Party guide: Malaysia's opposition alliance

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