Malaysia Set For Another Wobbly Government At the Helm As Election Leaves A Hung Parliament

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Image Source: Reuters

Political uncertainty in Malaysia looked unlikely to end as after a turbulent 3 years which saw three prime ministers take over the post, the recent election looks set to deliver a hung parliament, reported ANI.  

Longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan( Hope Coalition) garnered 82 seats in the 222-member Malay parliament while former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional( New National Alliance) collected 73 seats. Incumbent Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Barisan Nasional ended up with just 30 seats. Yaakob’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) ended up giving its worst performance ever for the alliance. These elections also all but pulled the curtain on veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad’s political career as he lost an election for the first time in 53 years, coming 4th in a 5-horse race in his long-held constituency on Langkawi Island.   

These elections also further faded away the dominance of the Barisan Alliance, which lost power in 2018 after ruling the nation for six decades since independence. Muhyiddin’s alliance, which includes Islamist fundamentalist elements like the PAS party of the ultra-conservative ilk and supporters of Islamic sharia law in the country, made huge inroads into Barisan and UMNO’S traditional vote bank. Anwar Ibrahim’s alliance has a multi-ethnic base which makes it even more difficult for him to ally with any of the other two major blocks.

No clear winner as Malaysia election ends in hung parliament

If he indeed becomes the prime minister, it would be a roller coaster of a political journey for the politician, who from being touted as the successor of Mahathir Mohamad went on to get convicted of sodomy and got jailed and has now returned as the second most powerful bloc in Malaysia’s political arena. He was instrumental in defeating Barisan, as an ally of Muhyiddin and mentor-turned-foe-turned-ally Mahathir Mohamad, as the government of Ismail plummeted under the public outburst caused by a multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

Leaders during election in Malaysia
Image Source: Reuters

With race, religion, and ethnicity divisive issues in Malaysia, the presence of political options, ranging from multi-ethnic alliances to moderately conservative and ultra-conservative ones, makes the political situation even more unstable. “With Perikatan Nasional making inroads into UMNO’s vote bank, it shows that there are three legitimate coalitions in the future of Malaysian politics.”

said Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, deputy managing director at political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia. With the country already battling rampant corruption and a looming economic crisis, the differences between the dominant Muslim Malays and ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities are expected to grow larger in face of continued back and forth of political rhetoric by different factions. “I think what we learned here is that the country is more divided.”

Both Muhyiddin and Anwar have ruled out working with each other. Smaller possible partners based in Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island could play the role of kingmakers if they decide to go with any one alliance. They seek greater autonomy in the functioning of their states and are expected to leverage their position for bargaining the same. Muhyiddin has already announced that he will meet the representatives of Sabah and Sarawak states on Sunday after the palace announced that it needed the names of the lawmakers expecting to form governments on Sunday, Reuters reported.  King Al-Sultan Abdullah is also expected to play a critical role in government formation.

Though he has limited powers, in face of a hung parliament he is authorized to appoint a prime minister he thinks can prove the majority of 112 seats in Malaysia’s lower house. He used the right before when he invited Muhyiddin to take over after the government of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad collapsed in 2020. The sultans and the king have also grown in influence amidst the political chaos. The coming days would be critical in deciding which alliances take over the reins in the country, but what’s more or less a certainty is that it’s going to be another unstable politically vulnerable government for the Malays, prone to tumbling down again. 

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