Rival leaders are now scrambling to expand their coalitions
Mahathir Mohamad lost his seat in the Langkawi island constituency
For the first time in its political history, Malaysia is dealing with a hung parliament after a bitterly contested general election left major parties unable to win enough votes to establish a new government.
As a result, rival leaders are now scrambling to expand their coalitions in an effort to build a clear majority, which has thrown the nation of Southeast Asia into new political upheaval. During a time when Malaysia is struggling with growing inflation and a cost of living problem, whoever prevails will become the country’s fourth prime minister in as many years.
The multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan alliance of seasoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was in the lead with 82 seats out of a possible 220 seats when all but one parliamentary seat was proclaimed Sunday morning, according to findings from the nation’s Election Commission.
The National Alliance, a Malay party, led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, with 73 seats, is not far behind. One Islamist party that has openly embraced shariah, or Islamic law, is a member of Muhyiddin’s group.
But in the biggest surprise of the evening, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which is made up of dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and other center-right political parties, was shockingly defeated, garnering just 30 seats.
UMNO officials earlier told CNN that the party had “a lot of work” to do and did not want to revert to its prior ways. UMNO dominated Malaysia for more than 60 years after it gained independence from Britain.
Previously, strong individuals were also introduced. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 97, lost his seat in the Langkawi island constituency, marking the first time in 53 years that he had been defeated.
Since there was no obvious winner in the election on Saturday, it is now possible that Malaysia’s King could intervene. The constitution gives the monarch the authority to choose which party holds the majority in parliament.
Residents of Malaysia’s Pahang state are seen wading amid floodwaters. Major flooding is anticipated in Malaysia. So why are elections being held? Despite the fact that none of the two front-runners received enough votes to form a government, both candidates declared victory on Sunday.
Anwar asserted that he had enough support from lawmakers to form a government in a late-night speech to supporters on Saturday. He promised to specify this support in a letter to the King. In order to create a coalition, Muhyiddin also informed his supporters that he was in contact with the heads of the major parties in Sarawak and Sabah.
The 1MDB corruption scandal, which saw billions of dollars of government money embezzled out of the country, has cast a shadow over Malaysian politics ever since it broke in 2015. Najib Razak, a former prime minister who is currently serving a 12-year prison term for corruption, was overthrown as a result.
Many voters indicated a great desire to put an end to years of political uncertainty before the election. And on Saturday, voters turned out in record numbers, with state media reporting a turnout of 73.89%, despite recent flooding and severe rains that made it difficult for candidates to campaign across more than half of the country.