Malaysia’s nationalists seen on track to form new government
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The government and opposition parties in Malaysia appear ready to go it alone for the first time in years on Sunday, as a new parliamentary election brings the country’s political dynamics to a head and the likelihood of a new government that unites conservatives and radicals.
The governing Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) and ethnic Malay party, Bersatu, won a commanding victory in Sunday’s election, promising to keep Malaysia’s current economic development and political status quo.
PAS’s victory has left a bitter taste for the opposition. But the party does not face a challenge to its power, which may be crucial to its survival in the election, analysts said.
The contest has become a proxy for the country’s complex politics, pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Malay nationalist party with his coalition partner the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and their alliance with the Malay-minority parties.
“Both PAS and Bersatu have come to power at the height of the economic crisis by promising to take the country back to the kind of stability that existed before 2008, when the global recession hit and the world was in recession for four years,” said analyst S.R. Suryadinata of the University of Wollongong, Australia.
“For the government and PAS and Bersatu, this is a form of a solution to the problem of the economy. But for the opposition, the question now is how to keep the pressure on PAS and Bersatu, and how to turn this into a political issue to divide the opposition parties or to use the issue to bring down Najib Razak.”
In a sign of the political tensions after the election, Pakatan Harapan leaders, led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, have called Najib a “dictator,” and warned against him heading the next government.
However, analysts believe Najib is not in a position to withstand such attacks.
The race for the presidency has also opened up further political tensions with the ruling coalition, led by UMNO.