His multiracial bloc PH secured 82 of the 220 seats up for grabs on Saturday, nine more than PN, with a record 15.5 million voters after four tumultuous years in Malaysian politics that have seen four prime ministers.
BN and its dominant party, the United Malays National Organization, scored just 30 points, a stunning repudiation of the group that has ruled the country almost continuously since independence.
Two-time Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was another loser of the night, as the 97-year-old withdrew from his Langkawi constituency, suffering his first defeat in 53 years. Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, was also ousted from a position she had long held in the family.
But the main takeaway as the election results were absorbed on Sunday was the surge of support for the Islamic Party of Malaysia, known as PAS, which favors sharia, or Islamic law.
A major component party within Muhyiddin’s PN coalition, it won 49 seats, more than any other single party, as Malaysian voters turned their backs on the corruption-tainted BN but did not embrace the PH, which includes the backed Democratic Action Party. by ethnic Chinese, to the extent that Anwar had hoped.
It was a result that reinforced religious and racial divisions in Malaysia and the challenge faced by Anwar and his reform agenda promoting pluralism.
Just two days before the election, Muhyiddin came under fire for a speech in which he claimed that PH was conspiring on a Jewish and Christian agenda to try to “colonize” Malaysia. He later said that they took it out of context.
As Muhyiddin and Anwar struggled to gather enough seats to form a government, the Gabungan Parti Sarawak loomed large as kingmakers. He won 22 seats in Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo, and could help either coalition cross the line.
With their tails between their legs, leaders of the once unbeatable BN have also raised their hands to join a ruling bloc, but said they accepted their poor performance as a clear sign from voters.