Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and rival Muhyiddin Yassin each insist they have the support to lead as uncertainty persists.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin have each said they have enough support among lawmakers to form a new government after last weekend’s hotly contested elections failed to resolve the political uncertainty that has left the Southeast Asian nation in recent years.
Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition came out on top in Saturday’s election with 82 seats, and he announced shortly afterwards that the coalition had the numbers to lead.
All Sunday he refused to comment on PH’s backers and urged Malaysians to be patient as local media called at the door last night.
Muhyiddin said earlier that his Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, which came second with 73 seats and is dominated by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), had negotiated enough support from other lawmakers to form a government. media of a meeting with one of the Borneo leaders whose support he needs.
A party or coalition needs a majority of 112 seats in parliament to form a government. Malaysia’s constitutional monarch has given politicians a deadline of 2pm local time (06:00 GMT) to submit their choice to the palace.
Maaf buat teman-teman tunggu lama. Say harap semua dapat bersabar dan doakan yang terbaik buat negara. pic.twitter.com/J1UhCNh15C
— Anwar Ibrahim (@anwaribrahim) November 20, 2022
[Translation: I’m sorry for the long wait friends. I hope everyone can be patient and pray for the best for the country.]
Anwar did not elaborate on the parties that could join PH in government, but the coalition in theory only needs to join forces with Barisan Nasional (BN), which won 30 seats, to form a government.
Muhyiddin needs the support of both the Borneo parties and BN to secure a parliamentary majority.
In a statement released on Sunday, Sarawak leader Abang Johari Openg said the Borneo parties and BN had agreed to support Muhyiddin.
“They will often advocate for autonomy and more devolution of powers,” political analyst Oh Ei Sun said of Borneo’s leaders. “On the other hand, I think when it comes to political calculations about which coalition to join, it’s much more about the vested interests of politicians there than the livelihoods and well-being of the people.”
The position of BN also complicates the calculation.
Following Abang’s statement, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and leader of BN, said in his own statement that the coalition was not part of the deal. He reminded coalition members of the pact he had made to support his decision.
Zahid is under intense pressure from UMNO to resign after BN’s dismal performance in an election believed to have pressured Prime Minister Ismail Sabri to call. Zahid is also on trial for corruption, and surveys show he is deeply unpopular with the Malaysian public.
Malaysia has struggled with political instability since PH won the 2018 election, removing BN from power for the first time since Malaysia’s independence amid outrage over the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB.
PH continued to rule for a few years amid opposition from some elements of the country’s conservative nationalist Malays, but the coalition collapsed in February 2020 following an internal coup.
That led to Muhyiddin, one of those who defected from PH, being appointed prime minister with the support of BN.
The political jostling continued even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, and Muhyiddin was replaced by Ismail Sabri just over a year later.
Official figures from Saturday’s election showed a record number of Malaysians voting, with PH 5.81 million, PN 4.67 million and BN 3.43 million. The electoral roll had been expanded following a constitutional amendment to allow 18-year-olds to vote and for automatic voter registration, further increasing uncertainty about the outcome.
Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with a Malay Muslim majority and significant communities of ethnic Chinese and Indians, as well as indigenous peoples.
The emergence of PAS in the election has surprised many and raised concerns about Malaysia’s future direction in a country where race and religion have long been divisive.