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Malaysia in transition

Racial divisions still simmer ahead of Malaysia poll

Affirmative action policy little debated, but weighs with many voters

Prime Minister Najib Razak's message in Chinese highlights Malaysia's multi-ethnic culture, but divisions remain. (Photo by Kentaro Iwamoto)

KUALA LUMPUR -- For decades Malaysia has granted privileges to ethnic Malays and other indigenous races, or Bumiputera, under a policy of affirmative action for the majority group that is less wealthy than the country's ethnic Chinese minority. While this policy has created discontent among some groups, it has largely dropped out of the political debate ahead of general elections on May 9, even as parties battle over Bumiputera votes that represent nearly 70% of the population.

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