Malaysia faces hung parliament for first time in history

Malaysia faces a hung parliament for the first time in its history as support for the conservative Islamist coalition prevented the main coalition from winning a simple majority in a general election.

Without a clear winner, political uncertainty is likely to persist as Malaysia faces slower economic growth and higher inflation. It has had three prime ministers over the years.

The failure of the major parties to win a majority means they must band together in a majority coalition to form a government. Malaysia’s constitutional monarch is also likely to be involved, as he has the power to appoint a member of parliament who he believes can secure a majority as prime minister.

Longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition won the most seats in Saturday’s general election, results from the Election Commission showed.

The biggest surprise came from former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who led his Nasional coalition bloc to a strong showing, attracting support from traditional strongholds of the current government.

Muhyiddin’s coalition includes a Malay-centric Conservative Party and an Islamist party that touts Sharia law, or Islamic law. Race and religion are divisive issues in Malaysia, with Muslim Malays the majority and Chinese and Indians the minority.

Both Anwar and Muhyiddin have claimed support to form a government, although they have not revealed which parties they are allied with.

Muhyiddin said he hoped to conclude the discussions by Sunday afternoon. His coalition, who are junior partners in the ruling coalition of current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, could work with them again.

Anwar said he would write to Malaysia’s King, Sultan Abdullah, detailing his support.

If Anwar wins the top job, it will end the remarkable journey of a politician who has gone from heir apparent to prime minister in 25 years to a prisoner convicted of sodomy and to the country’s chief executive. opposition figures.

Since 2015, Malaysian politics have been clouded by the 1MDB corruption scandal, in which billions of taxpayer dollars were diverted abroad. It overthrew former prime minister Najib Razak, who is now serving a 12-year sentence for corruption.

Three prime ministers have ruled the Southeast Asian country since a bitter election with record turnout on the key issue of corruption four years ago.

Malaysia has 222 parliamentary seats, but polls were held for only 220 seats on Saturday.

Anwar’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition won a total of 82 seats, while Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional won 73, the Election Commission said. Ismail’s Barisan Nasional coalition won 30 seats. As of 2100 GMT, one seat had not been announced.

“The main takeaway from this election is that the coalition has managed to undermine the two-party system,” said Adib Zalkapli, director of political consultancy Bower Group Asia.

Barisan and Pakatan have long been major groups in Malaysia.

BN said it accepted the people’s decision, but did not admit defeat. In a statement, the coalition said it remained committed to forming a stable government.

Meanwhile, veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad suffered his first election defeat in 53 years, which could have marked the end of his seven-year political career, losing his seat to Muhyiddin’s alliance.

A record number of Malaysians voted on Saturday, hoping to end a spate of political uncertainty that has led to three prime ministers amid uncertain economic times and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The political landscape has been turbulent since Barisan Nasional lost the 2018 general election after 60 years of independent rule.

In the late 1960s, as the country emerged from a protracted communist insurgency under the Malaya State of Emergency, Anwar made a name for himself as a student activist among various Muslim youth groups in Kuala Lumpur.

In 1974, Anwar was arrested during student protests against rural poverty and sentenced to 20 months in prison. Despite his notoriety, he later confused liberal supporters in 1982 by joining the conservative United Malays National Organization (UMNO) led by Mahathir.

The liberal politician was the heir apparent to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad until he was sacked in 1998 and charged with corruption and sodomy. He was found guilty the following year, a verdict that sparked massive street demonstrations.

The sodomy conviction was overturned, but the corruption conviction was never quashed, and he could not run for political office until a decade later.

As soon as his political participation ban was lifted in 2008, he was hit with more sodomy charges.

After appealing his acquittal on those charges, he was convicted again in 2015 and jailed. When the sentence was upheld, it was highly criticized by human rights groups, saying it was politically motivated – a claim the government has denied.

Amid public anger over the government’s involvement in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, Anwar was released from prison in 2018 after joining old foes Mahathir and Muhyiddin in defeating Barisan Nasional for the first time in Malaysia’s history.

The coalition collapsed after 22 months in power as Mahathir promised to hand over the prime ministership to Anwar. Muhyiddin was briefly prime minister, but his government collapsed last year, paving the way for BN to return to power under Ismail at the helm.

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