KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s political leaders were scrambling to form a coalition government on Sunday after an election produced an unprecedented election. suspended parliamentno group can claim a 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, which they did not identify. Muhyiddin said he hoped to conclude the talks by Sunday afternoon, although negotiations could take days.
Here’s what happens and what to expect:
Anwar’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition won 82 seats in the lower house, short of the 112 needed for a majority, but ahead of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional alliance with 73 and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Barisan Nasional with 30.
Muhyiddin’s alliance, which includes an Islamist party that has touted Islamic Sharia law for the Southeast Asian nation, emerged as a third major bloc, splitting votes more than expected.
He made inroads into the strongholds of Barisan, where the United Malayan National Organization (UMNO) – long Malaysia’s dominant political force – put in its worst showing ever.
AND AFTER ?
Analysts say the most likely government will again be a coalition of Muhyiddin’s bloc, Barisan and another group. But a minority government is possible if neither Anwar nor Muhyiddin can cobble together a majority.
Muhyiddin, who said he was open to working 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 who he would work with. In an interview with Reuters this month, he excluded in partnership with the coalitions of Muhyiddin and Ismail, citing fundamental differences.
The coalition of Muhyiddin and Ismail prioritizes the interests of the ethnic Malay majority, while that of Anwar is multicultural. Race and religion are divisive issues in Malaysia, where predominantly Muslim Malays make up the majority, with ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
THE ROLE OF THE KING
King Al-Sultan Abdullah could potentially choose the next prime minister.
The monarch has a largely ceremonial role, but the constitution gives him the power to appoint a lawmaker as prime minister who he believes can command a majority in parliament.
The kings of Malaysia – the position rotates between the sultans of the states – rarely wielded this power, but they became more influential in recent years amid political wrangling.
In 2020, when veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad’s government collapsed, King Al-Sultan chose Muhyiddin as prime minister after polling the 222 lawmakers to decide who had majority support. When Muhyiddin’s block also collapsed, he chose Ismail.
Muhyiddin said on Sunday he had received instructions from the palace on forming a government but did not reveal what they were. Anwar said he would submit a letter to the king detailing his support.
Political instability is expected to continue for Malaysia, which has seen three prime ministers in as many years due to power struggles.
The country is adjusting to the waning power of UMNO and the Barisan coalition, which ruled continuously for 60 years from independence until 2018.
The next coalition will not have a convincing majority and could be plagued by more infighting, which will hurt the economy.
Voters, frustrated by the instability, may bristle at a new government if it understands the losing parties.
Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by A. Ananthalakshmi and William Mallard
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