Malaysia is a federation of 13 states in Southeast Asia, formed in 1963.
The country consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea:
West Malaysia on the Malay Peninsula shares a land border on the north with Thailand and is connected by the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link on the south with Singapore. It consists of the 11 states Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu, and the two federal territories Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur.
East Malaysia occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei. It consists of the federal territory of Labuan islands and the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
As states of Malaysia were formerly British colonies, many Malaysian institutions are based on those of the British. For instance, the Malaysian system of government draws heavily on the British Westminster system. The head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (colloquially referred to as the King), who is elected from among the state sultans to a five-year term, making Malaysia the only elective monarchy in the world. As a constitutional monarchy, executive power is vested in the Prime Minister, with the King serving as more of a figurehead. The legislative branch consists of Parliament, which is mostly based on the British Parliament. A judiciary has also been established under the Constitution. The Barisan Nasional (National Front), a coalition of several political parties, has ruled Malaysia since Malaya's independence in 1957.
Initially heavily dependent on agricultural and mining activities, the Malaysian economy has since shifted its focus to manufacturing and tourism as its major sources of income. Despite the shift, Malaysia is one of the top producers of rubber and palm oil. In the 1970s, the government implemented the controversial New Economic Policy to address an income disparity between the Malays and Chinese.
Although historically dominated by the Malays, modern Malaysian society is heterogeneous, with substantial Chinese and Indian minorities. Malaysian politics have been noted for their allegedly communal nature; the three major component parties of the Barisan Nasional each restrict membership to those of one ethnic group, and the only major violence the country has seen since independence was the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in the wake of an election campaign based on racial issues.