The modern state of Malaysia was founded in 1969 after Malaysia gained independence from Britain and merged with two other former colonies. The political system is closely modeled after the Westminster system, though it puts significantly more emphasis on the executive then the legislative branch. Elections for the lower house, the legislative body, are held every five years. The paramount ruler, who serves as head of state, is elected by fellow hereditary regional rulers. In the 2013 election the National Front (Barisan Nasional; BN), a coalition of 13 mainly ethnicity-based parties, only managed to gain 133 of the 222 lower house seats (down from 140 seats in 2008). This can be seen as a great victory for opposition parties, especially given the fact that civil liberties are
significantly constrained through various laws which limit the chances of contesting opposition parties to reach and mobilise potential voters. The government strongly curbs the right to assembly, regularly using excessive police force against mass demonstrations under the pretext of maintaining national security and public order. Assemblies of more than three people require a public permit and police may arrest participants without warrant. Due to this restrictive environment the role of civil society organizations and NGOs is limited.