Malaysian General Elections – Analysis


Malaysia’s general election results indicate a number of trends that have shaped the future political landscape of the nation. Within the election results, where no coalition grouping can by themselves commend enough numbers to form a simple majority, there will have to be some form of inter-dependent politics, in order for any government to be formed. 

There were not uniform trends, as different parts of the country voted in different ways. Those politicians who didn’t perform well or were traitors to their party, were severely punished. These include Azmin Ali and Zuraidah Kamaruddin, who played a leading role in the Sheraton Putsch, and Maszlee Malik who performed very poorly as education minister.  

With a turnout of 75 percent, there were no ‘give-aways’ before the results were released about which coalition would benefit. A low turnout was expected to favour the Barisan Nasional, while a high turnout was expected to favour the opposition, Pakatan Harapan. Instead, the turnout didn’t favour any group, with the youth vote not being the game-changer the opposition had hoped for. 

In fact, the overall percentage vote for Pakatan Harapan declined. The Democratic Action Party (DAP) which held 47 seats before the election, won 40 this time around, with the percentage of its vote falling from 19.94 in 2018, to 18 percent in this election. Hardest hit was Anwar Ibrahim’s Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which lost 11 seats. With 31 seats, the percentage of PKR vote dropped from 18.92 to 14 percent. The third member Amanah lost 3 seats, gaining 8 in this election, and UPKO gained one seat, winning 2 seats. 

What makes the Pakatan Harapan coalition the largest grouping heading into the new parliament is not its outstanding electoral performance, but rather the split in the vote within the Malay heartlands. 

The Malay heartlands was the territory of the Barisan Nasional (BN), led by caretaker Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and Perikatan Nasional (PN), led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The BN had dominated this section of the electoral map ever since independence. The Party Se-Islam Malaysia (PAS), had built a foothold, winning 18 seats in 2018, and Bersatu, under the leadership of Mahathir Mohamed in 2018 was able to take 13 seats from UMNO, the dominating member of the BN.

UMNO’s dominance of the Malay heartlands this time round dropped from 54 seats to 20 on the peninsula, with an additional 7 won in Sabah. Umno’s vote fell from 20.9 percent in 2018, to just 12 percent. 

The real winner of the night, that many pundits were expecting over the last week was Perikatan Nasional (PN). Muhyiddin Yasin’s Bersatu went from 13 seats to 24 seats, going from 5.95 to 11 percent of the vote. PAS, led by Abdul Hadi Awang, gained a massive 31 seats, now with 49 seats in the new parliament. The PAS vote has risen from 16.82 to 22 percent. PAS is now the senior party in the PN coalition, and Abdul Hadi is a candidate for prime minster.

Over in Sarawak, the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which already governs the state won 22 out of 31 parliamentary seats. This is up from 19 in 2018. GPS has held meetings with bot PH leaders Anwar Ibrahim and Anthony Loke, and separately the leaders of PN, Muhyiddin Yassin and Abdul Hadi about forming a government. 

The political landscape of Sabah is now clearly divided between 3 groupings. UMNO Sabah has 7 seats, The GRS Sabah has 6 seats, and Warisan has 3, with the remainder held by DAP 2, PKR 1, and Bersatu 1. It looks like Sabah, unlike Sarawak will not rid the state from the influence of peninsula based political parties. 

The state of Perlis experienced an electoral tsunami from PN, wiping out the BN state government, where all state parliamentarians, including the chief minister Azlan Man, lost their seats. This occurred after dropped UMNO MP Shahidan Kassim, promised a wipe out of BN from the state. Both Pahang and Perak, where state elections were also held, hang in the balance with the probably BN-PN government. 

UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi forced the nation into an election during the monsoon season. His poor leadership has led to widespread calls for him to resign. If Zahid resigns, he will be open to the forthcoming prosecutions against him, with the absence of political protection. Although Zahid just scrapped in to his seat of Bagan Datuk by less than 400 votes, he is now personally open to the full weight of the law. 

PN had been able with PAS as the anchor to make major inroads into the Malay heartlands. UMNO’s grip on political power in Malaysia could be coming to an end. Its clear, that civil servants, the military, Malay professionals, and young Malay voters have thrown their support behind PN, evidenced by its win in the nation’s political capital Putra Jaya. 

Malays have accepted the political Islam-Malay nationalist approach propagated by PAS president Abdul Hadi. Pakatan made many mistakes in candidate selection. However, this would not have made up the numbers in the final seat tally. 

The Malaysian electoral map has clearly changed from voter sentiment displayed in the Johor State election, early this year. There was the absence of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak, who led the UMNO crusade during the Johor and Melaka campaigns. In contrast, caretaker prime minister Ismail Sabri stayed in his own electorate to safeguard his own seat of Bera. UMNO party president did the same. It almost appeared that Khairy Jamaluddin, who was given the unwinnable seat of Sungai Buloh was the unofficial leader of UMNO. This is in contrast to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who made whistlestop tours around the nation by helicopter during the campaign, displaying the old ‘reformasi’ fervour he was famous for. 

With the new political landscape in mind, Sarawak’s GPS is the obvious kingmaker of any new government. There are two basic choices for GPS to make. There are positives and negatives of both choices for GPS. PAS on the PN is not welcomed because of their political Islamic policies, and the DAP on the PH side is disliked because of what is seen as chauvinism. 

However, there could be an unexpected coalition cobbled together before any anti-hoping laws take effect, once inside the parliament. 

Murray Hunter’s Substack can be accessed here 

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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