Explainer: What to expect when Malaysia’s split elections leave the fight to form a government

Explainer: What to expect when Malaysia's split elections leave the fight to form a government
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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s political leaders were scrambling to form a coalition government on Sunday after elections produced an unprecedented result. parliament without majoritywith no group capable of claiming a majority.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin 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 on Sunday afternoon, although the negotiations could take days.

Here’s what’s happening 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 promoted 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 the Barisan, whose United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s long-dominant political force, put in its worst performance.


Analysts say the most likely government will once again be a coalition of the Muhyiddin bloc, Barisan and another group. But a minority government is possible if neither Anwar nor Muhyiddin can cobble together a majority.

Muhyiddin, who has said he is open to working with any party other than Anwar’s, said on Sunday he would discuss partnerships with regional parties in the Borneo island states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Anwar did not say who he would work with. In an interview with Reuters this month, he discarded partnering with the Muhyiddin and Ismail coalitions, citing fundamental differences.

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


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

The monarch has a largely ceremonial role, but the constitution empowers him to appoint as prime minister a legislator he believes can command a majority in parliament.

The kings of Malaysia – the position rotates among the sultans of the states – have rarely wielded such power, but they have become most influential in recent years amid political dispute.

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

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


Political instability is expected to continue in Malaysia, which has had 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 uninterrupted for 60 years from independence until 2018.

The upcoming coalition will not have a convincing majority and could be plagued by more infighting, hurting the economy.

Voters, frustrated by the instability, may be angry with a new government if it includes the losing parties.

Information from Mei Mei Chu; Edited by A. Ananthalakshmi and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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