Rival coalitions claim victory in Malaysia polls as crisis continues

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 20 (EFE).- Two Malaysian coalitions, principal opposition Pakatan Harapan (the Hope Alliance) and conservative Perikatan Nasional (National Allianze) have claimed victory in Saturday’s elections which have resulted in a deadlock for the first time in the country’s history as none of the formations could obtain a simple majority to form the government.

As per the final vote count, the Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional have won 82 and 73 seats respectively, much below the majority mark of 112, while incumbent Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Barisan Nasional could only manage to secure 30 seats.

Both PH leader Anwar Ibrahim – a longtime aspirant for the prime minister’s post – and PN’s former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who briefly led the country after Mahathir Mohamed’s resignation in 2020, claimed early on Sunday that they were in a position to form government and launched negotiations with other groups.

The defeat of the BN – led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – points to the sustained decline of this party which remained in power in Malaysia since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 until 2018.

The UMNO’s influence has waned mainly due to corruption scandals involving its leaders.

The multimillion-dollar embezzlement at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) under former prime minister Najib Razak (2009-2018) – who is serving a prison term in the case – paved the way for UMNO’s collapse, although the party could still negotiate a deal with one of the two major alliances.

Apart from corruption, the polls were also marked by the division of votes between the Malay community – which accounts for around 69 percent of the population – and the minorities (including 23 percent Chinese-origin citizens and 7 percent ethnic Indians).

The Malays, who traditionally voted en-masse for UMNO, have switched support to the PN to quite an extent, while the PH has a multi-ethnic support base.

The PN has the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) in its fold and backs extending the influence of Islamic law or Shariah in the Muslim-majority country, with a discourse that has included anti-Semitic rhetoric at times.

Meanwhile, former PM Mahathir could not win his own seat in Langkawi for the first time, effectively marking the end of the 97-year-old leader’s political career, which includes two terms as the prime minister.

Mahathir’s resignation in 2020 triggered a political crisis in Malaysia which continues to date.

The senior leader’s resignation over divisions inside the PH, which had won the 2018 elections, triggered political instability as the country witnessed three successive PMs in the past four years, including Mahathir.

The hung election results reflect the people’s disenchantment with the ruling class, even as inflation has surged and corruption among the elite has come into focus.

More than 900 candidates were in the fray for 220 of the 222 parliamentary seats – elections on two seats were withheld due to the death of a candidate and flooding – in the most closely fought elections in Malaysian history, with no end in sight to the political crisis. EFE


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