Malaysia faces a hung parliament for the first time in history

(CNN) Malaysia is facing a hung parliament for the first time in its political history after the main political parties failed to win enough votes to form a new government in a bitterly polarized general election.

As a result, the Southeast Asian country is plunged into new political turmoil, with rival leaders scrambling to expand their support base with renewed efforts to form a clear majority. Whoever wins will become Malaysia’s fourth prime minister as the country faces rising inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

Results from the country’s electoral commission showed all but one seat declared on Sunday morning, with the multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition led by veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim winning 82 of the 220 seats. , was in the lead.

The Malay Perikatan National Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, won 73 seats by a narrow margin. Muhyiddin’s group also includes Islamist parties that openly support sharia and Islamic law.

But in the night’s biggest upset, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yacob’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, made up of centre-right parties including the powerful United Malays National Organization (UMNO), won just 30 seats. Instead, they suffered a shocking defeat. .

Officials from UMNO, which has ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years after independence from Britain, previously told CNN that the party had “a lot of work to do” and had no intention of backing down.

The once indomitable figure also jumped out. The country’s former prime minister, 97-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, suffered his first defeat in 53 years, losing his seat in the Langkawi constituency.

The lack of a clear winner in Saturday’s election raises the possibility that Malaysia’s king may get involved, as the constitution gives him the power to determine the parliamentary majority.

Both leading candidates declared victory on Sunday despite results showing neither received enough votes to form a government.

In a speech to supporters late Saturday night, Anwar insisted he had enough support from parliamentarians to form a government and would detail his support in a letter to the king. Muhyiddin also told his supporters that he was also in talks with party leaders in Sabah and Sarawak to form a coalition government.

Since 2015, Malaysian politics has been overshadowed by the 1MDB corruption scandal, in which billions of taxpayer dollars were embezzled abroad. This led to the ouster of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was serving a 12-year sentence for corruption.

Ahead of the vote, many voters expressed a strong desire to end years of political instability. And on Saturday, voters headed to the polls in droves, with state media estimating turnout at 73.89%, despite heavy rains and flooding hampering campaigning in half the country in recent weeks. Ta.

Anwar survived

If Mr. Anwar can secure enough votes to form a government and secure a coalition government, it would be a remarkable comeback for the veteran politician who was jailed on sodomy charges and released in 2018.

Anwar rose to prominence as a student activist with various Muslim youth groups in Kuala Lumpur in the late 1960s, when the city was reeling from a protracted communist insurgency during the Malayan Emergency.

Anwar was arrested in 1974 during student protests against rural poverty and sentenced to 20 months in prison. Despite his reputation as a flame monger, he later embarrassed his liberal supporters by joining Mahathir’s conservative United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in 1982.

The freed politician was then Prime Minister Mahathir Mahathir’s heir apparent until he was accused of corruption and sodomy and removed from office in 1998. He was convicted the following year, a decision that led to mass street demonstrations.

Although his sodomy conviction was overturned, his corruption conviction was not, and he was unable to run for political office until 10 years later.

After the ban on political participation was lifted in 2008, further sodomy charges were brought against him.

After appealing his acquittal on these charges, he was again convicted and jailed in 2015. When the conviction was upheld, human rights groups criticized it as politically motivated, a claim the government denied.

Mr. Anwar was released three years later and immediately teamed up with his former political rival, Mr. Mahathir, to oust the ruling Barisan Party for the first time in Malaysian history. However, that success was short-lived, and the coalition government collapsed after less than two years in power.

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