Malaysia : Country profile
- Population: 25.3 million (UN, 2005)
- Capital: Kuala Lumpur
- Area: 329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles)
- Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
- Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
- Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 75 years (women)
- Monetary unit: 1 ringgit = 100 sen
- Main exports: Electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles
- GNI per capita: US $4,960 (World Bank, 2006)
- Internet domain: .my
- International dialling code: +60
Head of state: Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail was installed as Malaysia’s 12th king during a glittering ceremony in 2002.
He is the traditional ruler of Malaysia’s smallest state, Perlis, a rural province in the far north bordering on Thailand. He is a former student at Sandhurst military academy in Britain and a keen supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club.
The king’s role is largely ceremonial, although he is nominal head of the armed forces and all laws and the appointment of every cabinet minister require his assent.
Under Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy, the position of king is rotated every five years.
Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, himself a prince, devised the system after independence in 1957 to spread power among the sultans and rajas who had ruled over fiefdoms on the Malay peninsula for hundreds of years.
Prime minister: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Mr Abdullah began a new, five-year term in March 2004 after his coalition government won a landslide victory in parliamentary and regional elections.
Correspondents said the victory boosted his chances of pushing through reforms, including a promise to stamp out corruption. But his critics say the pace of change has been slow.
In 2006 his government unveiled a multi-billion-dollar plan intended to tackle rural poverty and promote growth. Its goal is to help Malaysia achieve developed nation status by 2020.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister in October 2003, when Asia’s longest-serving elected leader retired after 22 years in power.
He is a former deputy premier who held defence, foreign affairs and education portfolios under Dr Mahathir.
On taking office he faced a strong political challenge from opposition Islamic fundamentalists and inherited the task of overseeing one of the region’s most vibrant economies.
In contrast to his predecessor, Mr Abdullah has been described as self-effacing. He has been called the “Mr Nice Guy” of Malaysian politics.
Mr Abdullah was born in 1939 in Penang. His father was a founding member of Umno, Malaysia’s ruling party. After gaining a degree in Islamic studies he worked in the civil service before being elected to parliament in 1978.
Malaysia has been ruled by a coalition, the National Front, since independence. The United Malays National Organisation (Umno) is the biggest grouping in the alliance, which includes Chinese and Indian parties.