Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia –
Reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim moved closer to becoming Malaysia’s new prime minister after a political party agreed on Thursday to support a unity government following inconclusive general elections.
Any deal still needs to be approved by the Malaysian king. Divisive elections last Saturday led to a parliamentary shortfall that renewed a leadership crisis in Malaysia, which has had three prime ministers since 2018. Police have tightened security across the country as social media warned of racial issues if he wins. multi-ethnic Anwar bloc.
Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, led the race with 82 parliamentary seats, less than the 112 needed for a majority. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s Malay-focused Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, won 73 seats. The alliance headed by the United Malays National Organization, which has 30 seats, holds the key that will tip the balance.
UMNO reversed its decision to remain in opposition and said it would pay attention to the king’s proposal for a unity government.
UMNO General Secretary Ahmad Maslan said on Thursday that the party’s top decision-making body has now decided to support a unity government that is not led by Muhyiddin’s camp. He said the party will accept any unity government or any other form of government the king decides.
UMNO has 26 seats and another four are held by the component parties of its National Front alliance. It is not clear if the other party members accepted UMNO’s decision.
If all 30 National Front legislators support Anwar, he will win a majority. Anwar already has the support of a small party on the island of Borneo with three seats. In total, that will give him 115 parliamentary seats.
If Anwar takes the top job, it will ease fears about the rise of right-wing politics in the country. Muhyiddin’s bloc includes the hardline Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, which has 49 seats, more than double what it won in 2018. Known as PAS, it backs Islamic Shariah law, governs three states and is now the world’s largest party. .
Malay Muslims make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, who include large Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah will meet royal families from nine states on Thursday to consult them on the impasse. Malaysia’s hereditary state rulers, who rotate as the country’s king every five years under a unique rotation system, are regarded by the country’s Malay majority as the guardians of Islam and Malay tradition.
Anwar’s reformist alliance won the 2018 election that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined UMNO to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was beset by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then chosen by the king as prime minister.
Many rural Malays fear losing their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar. Fed up with corruption and infighting in UMNO, many opted for Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.