Keep racing to form a coalition government in Malaysia after the election standstill

Keep racing to form a coalition government in Malaysia after the election standstill


Keep racing to form a coalition government in Malaysia after the election standstill

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –

M JEGATHESAN, Satish Cheney

Rival Malaysian political blocs tried on Monday to rally smaller parties to form a coalition government after a conservative Islamist party made big gains over the weekend.

One of Southeast Asia’s largest economies has seen three changes of government in as many years before this standoff, and the next faces major challenges, including rising inflation.

No party emerged with a clear majority. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin both claim they have the means to control parliament.

To break the impasse, the parties have been told to present their preferred prime ministers and coalition partners by 14:00 (0600 GMT) on Monday at the Royal Palace.

The bloc led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which once dominated Malaysian politics, trailed far behind the rest in Saturday’s election.

It was the worst election result since Malaysia gained independence in 1957.

While details of possible alliances are unclear, Muhyiddin’s group includes the conservative Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), which advocates a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

– Big gains for Islamists –

In the recent elections, the PAS became the largest party in Muhyiddin’s bloc, raising concerns among analysts about its influence on national politics.

The party forced the cancellation of an annual craft beer festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

And in 2018, two women convicted of lesbian sex were caned in front of a crowd of more than 100 in a PAS-ruled state.

“If they (PAS) hold most of the cabinet and leadership positions, that will create fear,” Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham Malaysia told AFP.

She said women’s rights could also be “potentially affected”.

This wouldn’t be the first time in a governing coalition for PAS, but this time they have a far larger number than before.

Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, deputy general manager of BowerGroupAsia, noted that PAS had previously avoided pushing its agenda heavily.

“However, PAS may be tempted to impose its identity in the new government…especially after its stunning performance,” he said.

For years, critics have warned of an Islamist conservatism creeping into Malaysian society and politics, saying hardliners are undermining the country’s traditionally moderate Islam.

The majority of Malaysia’s 33 million residents are Malays and Muslims, but the country is also home to numerous ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Ethnic Malay parties have claimed that Malaysia’s majority ethnic group would lose their rights if non-Malays – like Anwar’s multi-ethnic bloc – were elected.

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