Six key takeaways from Malaysia’s first Hang Parliament


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dated: 2022-11-20 10:54:23 .

(Bloomberg) — Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s reformist Pakatan Harapan and a pro-Malay rival faction led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yasin are vying to form the next government after snap elections left parliament deadlocked.

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Both must try to muster a slim majority by convincing a range of parties to join their alliance to become the fourth prime minister in four years. In any case, the political uncertainty that has dogged the Southeast Asian country is likely to persist at a time when the economy is on a fragile recovery and the rising cost of living is fueling discontent.

Here are the key conclusions of the election:

The political crisis continues

The battle for control of the government will be fought for the next few days. Anwar’s PH coalition has 82 seats out of 220, the largest share, followed by Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional with 73. To comfortably exceed the 111 seats needed for a majority, Anwar and Muhyiddin must form an alliance with caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri’s Barisan Nasional. regional parties in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo and a handful of independents. Muhyiddin publicly rejected cooperation with PH to form a government.

Context: This is a repeat of the talks following the fall of the governments of Mahathir Mohamad in 2020 and Muhyiddin in 2021. Both times Anwar claimed he had the power to form a government, but pro-Malay coalitions closed in to oust him. Reflecting growing political uncertainty, Malaysia’s benchmark share index remains nearly 24% below its April 2018 record even after the recovery.

King re-enters

Malaysia’s king, who is chosen from among nine royal families every five years, could play an important role in forming the government. The palace invited Muhyiddin and Anwar to present plans on Monday to show they have a majority, a similar process used to form the last two governments. Under the constitution, the king can determine which leader he thinks has the majority, although this would not be publicly tested until parliament convenes.

Context: Until the past decade, the monarch’s involvement in politics was unknown, as one party, the United Malays National Organization, and its allies dominated politics for six decades after independence. But as UMNO’s control began to weaken, the monarchy had to intervene. Sultan Abdul Samad, the current king, appointed Muhyiddin as prime minister without a vote in parliament after Mahathir suddenly resigned in 2020. He stepped in again and appointed Ismail as prime minister 15 months later, when public anger over the government’s handling of the economy and the pandemic forced Muhyiddin to resign.

UMNO’s historic losses

The UMNO-led Allianz BN took only 30 seats – their worst ever result. During the campaign, rival parties reminded voters of the corruption cases that plagued UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the criminal investigation that landed former prime minister Najib Razak behind bars for his role in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal. Many Malay voters sided with Muhyiddin’s bloc, which promised to protect their rights while promoting clean governance.

Context: UMNO called early elections to capitalize on gains in local elections earlier in the year and what they saw as a disorganized opposition. UMNO traditionally clings to the traditional Malay central states in Malaysia’s central and east coast, but its influence has been weakened by the resurgent Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, the largest in the PN alliance.

inflation concerns

Anwar’s PH clung to its urban and semi-urban strongholds in Peninsular Malaysia, where cost-of-living pressures are uppermost in voters’ minds. But none of the three major coalitions during the campaign shed much light on how they intend to fight inflation, which is still above 4 percent. A brief mention of monetary donations by some candidates only raised concerns about government spending.

Context: In pre-election polls, voters cited higher living costs and the economy as their top concerns, followed by governance and political stability.

Rise of the Islamist Party

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) emerged as the only party with the most seats – 44, surpassing Muhyiddin’s own party in the PN Alliance as it took religious leadership over UMNO and other pro-Malay groups. Their victories in mostly rural areas put PAS in a strong position to push an Islamist agenda that includes enforcing Sharia law and banning the sale of alcohol throughout the multinational state.

Context: PAS’s long-proclaimed goal is to transform Malaysia into a theocratic state, but in recent years and during the last election campaign, it has focused on clean governance with Islamic values ​​to attract non-Muslims and a new generation of younger people not to resent voters.

Mahathir loses

Several political heavyweights lost their seats, including two-time prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 97, whose campaign culminated with warnings that a vote for Anwar or Muhyiddin’s coalition would destroy the country without offering a strong alternative vision.

Context: Mahathir wielded enormous influence over Malaysian politics, ruling the country for 22 years until 2003, then teaming up with former nemesis Anwar to oust Najib Razak after the 1MDB scandal. He has a penchant for mega projects, including the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and is credited with modernizing Malaysia. But voters did not forget that Mahathir’s sudden resignation in 2020 led to the fall of the PH government.

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Six key takeaways from Malaysia’s first Hang Parliament

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