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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Federation of Malaysia was born in 1963. Two years later, Singapore seceded to form an independent and sovereign state. Malaysia, thereafter, constituted 11 states of peninsular Malaya—Perak, Kedah, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengannu, Melaka and Pulau Pinang and two states on the island of Borneo, namely, Sabah (formerly North Borneo) and Sarawak. Sandwiched between Sabah and Sarawak is the small sultanate of Brunei, whose extreme fortunes are built on oil. Besides the 13 states, there are two federally administered territories, namely, the country's capital of Kuala Lumpur in Selangor State and Labuan.

Malaysia has, since its inception in 1963, been a federal democracy with Kuala Lumpur as the federal capital where the federal legislature and the Supreme Court are housed. Nine states of peninsular Malaya are headed by hereditary rulers, the sultans, who constitute the Conference of Rulers and elect, mostly by rotation, one of themselves, as the Yang Di Pertuan Agong (Supreme Head of State) for 5 years. Melaka and Pulau Pinang on the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia are not members of the Conference of Rulers. Each of the 13 units of the federal polity has an elected government on the Westminster pattern with the chief minister and his cabinet belonging to the party with the largest number of elected representatives in the lower house. At the federal level, the prime minister and his cabinet belong to the majority party in the lower house of the parliament.

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