Malaysia remained without a government as King Al-Sultan Abdullah said he needed more time to choose the next prime minister, after the two main coalitions failed to win a simple majority in weekend general elections, leading to a parliament without a majority
On Tuesday, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin had an audience with the king after neither won majority support in the 222-member parliament.
Muhyiddin said he had rejected a request by the monarch to form a unity government with Anwar.
Anwar said that for now there was no doubt about the formation of a minority government. He said the king, in his meeting, spoke of wanting a strong government “that is more inclusive in terms of race, religion or region” and that can focus on the economy.
The monarch can name whoever he thinks will have the majority. “Let me make a decision soon,” he told reporters outside the National Palace.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called Saturday’s election early amid pressure from his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), saying it would help restore stability after three prime ministers in almost the same number of years.
But for the first time in Malaysia’s history, the election produced a divided parliament with no party or coalition winning the majority needed to form a government.
The Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won 82 seats, meaning it needed to win the support of at least 30 more MPs to secure a 112-seat majority in parliament.
The rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition led by Muhyiddin won 73 seats, and the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition came third with 30 seats. Other key parties in the negotiations are the states of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has 23 representatives in the new parliament, while the Sabah-based Gabungan Parti Rakyat (GPR) has six. Warisan, another Sabah-based party has three.
Politicians involved in the discussions have loyalties and rivalries going back years, complicated by Malaysia’s multicultural society: Most people are ethnic Malay Muslims, but there are substantial Chinese, Indian and indigenous minorities who follow Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, among other beliefs. . Race and religion can be divisive issues.
Anwar began his political career as a student activist, founding the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement, known by its Malay acronym ABIM, in 1971.
He later joined UMNO, where he rose rapidly through the ranks to become finance minister and deputy to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but in September 1998 he was abruptly sacked. Mahathir accused Anwar of corruption and sodomy, a crime in Malaysia, and thousands took to the streets to protest.
Anwar’s imprisonment sparked an outcry for reform and the founding of the multiracial Keadilan party, which means justice in Malay, a vital pillar of the PH coalition.
PH also includes the multiracial but largely Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is unpopular with conservative Malays, and the reformist Islamist Amanah party.
He also has the support of MUDA, a youth party that has a seat in the new parliament.
The rise of the reform movement throughout the 2000s and beyond has prompted a substantial realignment in Malaysian politics.
BN, a race-based coalition that also includes parties representing Chinese and Indian Malays, once dominated the post-independence political landscape but lost power for the first time in 2018, to PH, amid of the multi-million dollar scandal over the financial 1MDB. scandal.
1MDB was set up as a state fund to spur new investment in Malaysia, but researchers say the money went elsewhere.
BN’s performance over the weekend was the worst in its history. The main beneficiary of the coalition’s woes has been the PN, a conservative Malaysian grouping.
The coalition includes Bersatu, founded by UMNO members angry at 1MDB, and enlarged by former Keadilan members whose defections in February 2020 led to the collapse of the PH government.
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