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Malaysia 2018 Elections

Mahathir Mohamad said he expected to be sworn in as the country's next prime minister soon, following the surprise election victory on 10 May 2018 by his opposition alliance. Mahathir said at a news conference on Thursday that the Alliance of Hope won a majority of seats in the lower house and a mandate to govern. He called for a smooth handover of power, not a political vacuum. Mahathir said the alliance has asked the country's king to hold a swearing-in ceremony. The swearing-in ceremony took place at the royal palace in Kuala Lumpur, making Mahathir the country's seventh prime minister.

Vote tally released by the Malaysian Election Commission showed that the opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, obtained a simple majority, 113 seats out of the 222 seats of the parliament's lower house, enough for them to form the federal government.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition that reigned for 61 years, the coalition that had long relied on the support of the country's Malay ethnic majority, had 79 in the 222-member parliament. The win for the opposition ended the reign of Najib Razak, a former protégé of Mahathir, with whom he fell out after a scandal involving the state development fund 1MDB broke out. Najib denied any wrongdoing. "This upset ranks up there with Brexit and the Trump election," said Aninda Mitra, a senior sovereign analyst at BNY Mellon Investment Management.

In the election, the Alliance of Hope scored a historic victory over the governing National Front coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. The Front had ruled the country since its independence began in 1957. Najib has conceded defeat. He said he will accept the verdict of the people and respect parliamentary democracy. Mahathir, at 92, was set to become the world's oldest living elected leader. He was Prime Minister, as the head of the National Front, from 1981 until he stepped down in 2003. He came out of retirement and switched to the opposition, leading it to its recent victory.

The rout of BN was made possible by a Malaysian tsunami, said an editorial by local media Malaysiakini, referring to the swing of BN core supporters to PH. These core voters may include Malay people in rural areas, who have long relied on subsidies and favorable policies espoused by BN. PH also won five of the 12 state legislatures, even breaking into BN traditional fortress such as the states of Johor and Kedah. Several BN heavyweights and cabinet ministers failed to retake their parliamentary seats.

If the opposition forms a government, it is expected that several policies introduced under the BN government will be revoked, including the unpopular 6-percent Goods and Services Tax. Mahathir has promised to reintroduce a fuel subsidy and abolish the debts of palm farmers.

Background

Malaysia's closely-watched 14th general elections will fall on May 9, with nomination day on 28 April 2018, the Election Commission announced on 10 April 2018. Polling will fall on a Wednesday, a departure from past elections. The minimum campaigning period is 11 days.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on 06 April 2018 that the parliament will be dissolved the next day, paving way for the next general election to be held within 60 days in which he is seeking another mandate after holding the position for nine years. In a televised speech delivered after a special cabinet meeting, Najib said he has already acquired the consent of King Sultan Muhammad V to dissolve the parliament.

The date of polling day was announced by the Election Commission of Malaysia. Normally, a general election should be held no later than two months after the dissolution of the parliament. Voters will elect the 222-member Dewan Rakyat, or House of Representatives.

For the past six decades after Malaysia's independence, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party which Najib serves as president, has won every election together with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has the Malaysian Chinese Association and Malaysian Indian Congress as its two major component parties.

This time, Najib is facing the challenge of 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who quit UMNO in 2016 and later joined the opposition alliance as the chairman of a new party called Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Mahathir has said he hoped that the Malay voters, traditionally the supporters of the ruling coalition, could turn to the opposition and change regime this time. Najib has been recently on a campaign trail to many places nationwide. At an event in the eastern state of Sarawak on Wednesday, Najib appealed to the local people to support BN to hold their ruling position.

In the last general election held in 2013, BN managed to win 133 out of the 222 seats, though it obtained less than half of the popular votes.

The Malaysian government on 06 April 2018 ordered former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's opposition party to suspend its activities for 30 days. The move precedes a general election expected to be called within weeks. The government issued the directive, saying Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia failed to submit paperwork required to hold rallies. Mahathir retired from the center stage of politics after serving as prime minister for more than 2 decades. But he decided to stand in the election after corruption allegations involving Najib surfaced in 2015. The current parliamentary term expires on June 26, 2018, which means GE14 [the 14th General Election] must be called no later than 60 days after that. For a while, observers believed the election would be set for September 2017, but the next window of opportunity available to Prime Minister Najib Razak is between March and April 2018, after Chinese New Year in February and before fasting for Ramadhan begins in May 2018.

Prospects for Najib seemed positive despite his woes over 1MDB, since the issue is fast fading from Malaysians’ minds. In 2018, the support for the opposition will not be as strong as the last two election cycles, given the break-up of the original coalition, the loss of a unifying figure leading the coalition, and the public’s general disenchantment with politics. The real battleground lies in rural, Malay-Muslim Malaysia. Ethno-religious politics form the frontiers of socio-political contestation in Malaysia.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi called on the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition led by Umno to also snatch back the two-thirds supermajority it first lost in 2008 and failed to recover in 2013. Umno has split yet again, with the breakaway Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, also known as Bersatu, led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. The Umno split - the fifth in its 71-year history - also altered the national political landscape, with Bersatu entering into an unprecedented alliance with the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, spiritually led by the jailed Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy premier and Umno Number 2 himself.

The net effect is the unthinkable reconciliation between allies-turned-foes Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar, and the convergence of one former premier, two former deputy premiers and at least one former chief minister in common opposition to Mr Najib.

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad was confident opposition parties can defeat Prime Minister Najib Razak in the country's next general election — an event that could see the 91-year-old return to power. "If public opinion is to be taken into account, our chances are very good," he told CNBC in Tokyo, 06 June 2017. Malaysia's, longest-serving prime minister, Mahathir launched the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) in the aim of overthrowing Najib. Mahathir retired from the center stage of politics after serving as prime minister for more than 2 decades. But he decided to stand in the election after corruption allegations involving Najib surfaced in 2015.



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