Malaysia’s main political coalitions have held talks over the past two days to gain enough support from lawmakers to form a new government after the weekend. unclear elections.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah gave them a deadline of 2pm (06:00 GMT) on Tuesday to submit affidavits of support. State news agency Bernama said he would make a decision soon.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called the election early under pressure from his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), who said it would help restore the election. stability after three prime ministers in almost as many years.

Here’s what you need to know about the effort to form a new ruling alliance:

The hung parliament

For the first time in Malaysia’s history, the election resulted in a hung parliament without a single party or coalition winning the parliamentary majority needed to form a government.

The The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim won 82 seatsmeaning it needed the support of at least 30 more MPs to secure a majority of 112 seats in parliament.

The rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin won 73 seats, with the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, dominated by UMNO, in third place with 30 seats.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a press conference.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said his coalition had the necessary support to form a government shortly after the election results were announced. But rival PN, which received the second highest number of votes, also claimed to have enough support to do so [Hasnoor Hussain/Reuters]

Other key parties to the negotiations come from the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has 23 representatives in the new parliament, while Sabah-based Gabungan Parti Rakyat (GPR) has six. Warisan, another Sabah-based party, has three.

How did the negotiations go?

Anwar announced in the early hours of Sunday morning after the official poll results were announced that PH had enough support to form a government, but he did not provide further details.

The PH camp remained largely silent on Sunday as Muhyiddin and PN dominated headlines and shared a photo of the coalition in talks with Sarawakian leader Abang Johari Openg.

Abang Johari later issued a statement saying that the Borneo parties and BN had agreed to support Muhyiddin.

But BN denied a decision had been made, amid rumors it would join PH.

Monday morning, party leaders of PH and BN were shaken hands and discussions were held at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

After the meeting, Anwar said he was “extremely pleased” with the progress of the talks and optimistic that they could form a government.

BN said any decision would come from the highest decision-making body, but even as talks appeared to be moving, PN issued a statement saying it had submitted a list of MPs to the King. He said he would support his bid to form the government, but the statement did not name them.

GPS’s Abang Johari, meanwhile, said the situation was “chaotic” and that his group was actually still discussing which coalition to join. Warisan said it would support a PH-BN combination.

On Tuesday at 11 am, Ismail Sabri announced on Twitter that BN would not join any coalition and would remain in the opposition. There was no comment from UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Ismail Sabri is one of three vice presidents in the party.

Without support from BN, the leading coalition could end up governing as a minority government.

Why are the conversations so difficult?

The politicians involved in the discussions have allegiances and rivalries dating back years, complicated by Malaysia’s multicultural society – the majority of the people are ethnic Malaysian Muslims, but with substantial minorities of Chinese, Indian and indigenous people who, among other things, have the following Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism. Race and religion can be divisive.

Anwar Ibrahim began his political career as a student activist and founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia in 1971, known by its Malaysian abbreviation ABIM.

He later joined UMNO where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Finance Minister and deputy to then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but was abruptly dismissed in September 1998.

Mahathir accused Anwar of corruption and sodomy, a crime in Malaysia, and thousands took to the streets.

The episode, which saw Anwar jailed, sparked calls for reform and the creation of the multi-racial Keadilan Party, which means justice in Malay, a vital pillar of the PH coalition. PH also includes the multiracial but mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is unpopular with conservative Malaysians, and the reformist Islamist party Amanah.

It is also supported by MUDA, a youth party which has one seat in the new parliament.

The rise of the reform movement in the 2000s and beyond has led to a substantial realignment of Malaysian politics.

BN, a race-based coalition that also includes parties representing Malaysians of Chinese and Indian descent, once dominated the post-independence political landscape, but first lost power in 2018 — to PH — amid the billion-dollar scandal over 1MDB. His performance over the weekend was the worst ever.

(PAS) leader Abdul Hadi Awang, dressed in his party green and white robes, smiles and waves
PAS, under leader Abdul Hadi Awang (centre, waving) was the big winner in the polls emerging as the largest party in parliament [Handout/Malaysia’s Department of Information via AFP]

The main beneficiary of the coalition’s woes is PN, a conservative Malaysian group.

The coalition includes Bersatu, founded by UMNO members angered by 1MDB, and expanded by former Keadilan members whose defection led to the collapse of the PH government in February 2020.

Also part of PN is the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has long controlled the northeastern state of Kelantan but has expanded its influence in recent years. The party, which has said it wants to introduce Islamic law, recorded its best-ever performance in the recently concluded elections, winning 44 seats and becoming the largest party in parliament.

The states of Borneo, where Islam is not the majority religion, usually keep events on the peninsula – a two-hour flight across the South China Sea – at bay. However, they have pushed for greater recognition of their role in shaping Malaysia and a larger share of the federal government’s revenue.

The leadership situation at BN has also made the talks difficult. The alliance’s chairman, Zahid, faced calls to resign over the coalition’s dismal election performance, while he suspected he had pressured Ismail Sabri to take the poll. He is also on trial for corruption charges related to a charitable foundation.

Warning on social media

The Malaysia-based Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) set up a team to monitor hate speech on social media during the campaign and the data showed that race-based narratives dominated political discourse.

In a mid-campaign analysis, the PAS and its leader Abdul Hadi identified Awang as one of the worst offenders.

“They have resorted to frightening Muslim voters with statements such as ‘go to hell if you vote for Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional’, and incite violence against ‘kafir harbi’ (enemies of Islam), and for calling out Malays to unite and fight against the Chinese (DAP) and Indians,” CIJ said in a pronunciation.

Muhyiddin also drew criticism after claiming at a PN meeting that PH was collaborating with Christians and Jews to “convert” Muslims in Malaysia in a speech widely shared on TikTok.

“Such statements, carelessly uttered, tend to create racial and religious tension and strife,” Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) secretary general Reverend Jonathan Jesudas said in a statement.

A young male voter shows his inked finger after casting his vote in Malaysia
Millions of Malaysians voted in the general election last weekend, but the result was inconclusive and revealed deep divisions in society [JohnShen Lee/AP Photo]

Race and religion have remained dominant themes in some corners of social media since the election, with videos referencing the May 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur circulating on Tiktok.

On Monday night, police warned people against posting “provocative” content.

“Strict action … will be taken against users who attempt to initiate a situation that may threaten public safety and order,” Police Inspector General Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said in a statement.

The 1969 violence resulted in the deaths of about 200 people, most of them ethnic Chinese, and followed a better-than-expected performance in that year’s election by opposition parties backed by the Chinese community.

The material was condemned by Anwar, while Abdul Hadi warned people against provocations that could undermine harmony.

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