New Malaysian government formed amid internal and global tensions


New Malaysian government formed amid internal and global tensions

John Roberts

30 May 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has begun to form the country’s new cabinet, following the historic defeat of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-dominated Barisan Nasional coalition government (BN) in the May 9 election.

The 92-year-old Mahathir leads the Pakatan Harapan (PH) four-party coalition. The PH received 47.92 percent of the popular vote, winning a clear majority in the 222-member lower house of the parliament. This compares with 33.8 percent for the BN and 16.99 percent for the Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS).

UMNO’s electoral defeat was the outcome of immense discontent over social inequality, entrenched ruling nepotism and corruption, and the suppression of the democratic aspirations of the mass of the population.

Six-decade-old mechanisms to maintain virtual one-party rule in Malaysia failed to deliver victory to UMNO and its coalition, for the first time since the country gained independence in 1963. These included the use of race and religion to divide the electorate, the flagrant channelling of state funds to business cronies, tight control of the media, political control of the courts and massive gerrymandering.

The PH coalition, however, is far from a homogeneous political grouping. It consists of Mahathir’s United Malaysian Indigenous Party (PPBM), which has 13 seats; Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party (PKR), with 47; the ethnic Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) with 42; and Amanah, a breakaway from the Islamist PAS, with 11 seats.

The PH is a disparate collection of ruling-class elements whose interests clashed with UMNO’s predatory rule. The only unifying position they have is the…

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