Explainer: What to expect as Malaysia’s divisive election scrambles to form a government

Explainer: What to expect as Malaysia's divisive election scrambles to form a government
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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Malaysian political leaders were scrambling to form a coalition government on Sunday after an election produced an unprecedented A hung parliamentNo group is able to claim majority.

Longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin each said they could form a government with the support of other parties, whom they did not identify. Muhyiddin said he hoped to conclude the talks by Sunday afternoon, although the talks could take a few days.

Here’s what’s happening and what to expect:

what happened

Anwar’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition won 82 seats in the lower house, short of the 112 seats needed for a majority but Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional coalition led with 73 and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yacob’s Barisan Nasional with 30.

Muhyiddin’s coalition, which includes an Islamist party that supports sharia Islamic law for the Southeast Asian nation, emerged as the third major bloc, splitting the vote more than expected.

It penetrated the stronghold of Barisan, whose United Malays National Organization (UMNO) – long Malaysia’s dominant political force – had its worst showing ever.

What then?

Analysts say the government is likely to be a coalition of Muhyiddin’s bloc, Barisan and another group. But a minority government is possible if neither Anwar nor Muhyiddin can consolidate a majority.

Muhyiddin, who said he was ready to work with any party except Anwar, said on Sunday he would discuss partnerships with regional parties in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Anwar did not say with whom he will work. In an interview given to Reuters this month canceled Partnering with Muhyiddin and Ismail’s coalition, citing fundamental differences.

Muhyiddin and Ismail’s coalition prioritizes the interests of the ethnic-Malay majority, while Anwar’s coalition is multicultural. Race and religion are divisive issues in Malaysia, where mostly Muslim Malays form the majority, with ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Role of the King

King Al-Sultan Abdullah could potentially choose the next prime minister.

The king has a largely ceremonial role, but the constitution gives him the power to appoint as prime minister a lawmaker who he thinks can command a majority in parliament.

Malaysia’s monarchs – the rank rotates among the kingdoms’ sultans – have rarely exercised that power, but they have become more influential In recent years, amid political strife.

In 2020, when the government of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad fell, Raja Al-Sultan chose Muhyiddin as prime minister after interviewing 222 lawmakers to decide who had the majority support. When Muhyiddin’s block also collapsed, he chose Ismail.

Muhyiddin said on Sunday that he had received instructions from the palace on government formation but did not reveal what they were. Anwar said he would submit a letter detailing his support to the king.

The implication?

Political instability is expected to continue in Malaysia, which has seen three prime ministers in as many years due to power struggles.

The country is adjusting to the waning power of the UMNO and Barisan alliance, which ruled uninterrupted for 60 years since independence until 2018.

The latter coalition would not have a credible majority and could be embroiled in further infighting, hurting the economy.

Voters frustrated by instability may oppose a new government if it includes defeated parties.

Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; A. Edited by Anantalakshmi and William Mallard

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

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