By Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
SHAH ALAM, Nov 14 — From the first time Malaysians headed to the polls in 1959, in the then called Federation of Malaya, the country had been ruled by a single political coalition — the Barisan Nasional (BN) — that is, until 2018 when the giant was felled by Pakatan Harapan (Harapan).
Over the years, the Malaysian political landscape has seen tremendous changes.
Expectations are high that this year’s 15th general election (GE15) will result in a hung parliament or the possibility of a mixed-coalition government as political observers predict that no single party or coalition is able to get a simple majority of 112 seats in Parliament.
Analysts are of the view that should none of the groups be able to secure a strong majority, the parties or coalitions would have to negotiate to form a mixed-coalition government.
Ilham Centre fellow researcher Mujibu Abd Muis said that if the GE15 result is hung, the narrative calls for the people to give the mandate to the side that has a stronger majority.
“If the people see there is a fracture in the alliance, it would be difficult for it to form a stable government. The question is if no coalition is able to get a simple majority, who would then be chosen to form a mixed government?
“We would be seeing them sitting down together to negotiate this,” said Mujibu, when contacted by Selangor Journal recently.
“It is difficult to guess which coalition is able to capture a simple majority of 112 (parliament) seats, especially in West Malaysia where the Malay votes are split. Who is going to wrestle these seats, especially the Malay (majority) seats?
“Whereas for Sabah and Sarawak, they would be the kingmaker as both of the states are waiting to see who the winners are and join them,” he said.
Political observer and writer Ruhan Shahrir pictured the outcome of GE15 to be blurry and uncertain, especially with so many multi-cornered fights.
According to the Election Commission (EC), the 2022 polls recorded the highest number of candidates contesting for the 222 parliamentary seats at 945.
“I see it as an ambiguous situation as it would be difficult for the major components to form the new government.
“We should not discount Pejuang and GTA (Gerakan Tanah Air), not on the possibility of winning, but on pushing the agenda of their leader, which is Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad),” he said.
Ruhan said if a mixed government is on the cards, the structural differences between the different parties and coalitions would be the underlying factor on whether the newly formed government would be a success.
With BN and Perikatan Nasional (PN) being Malay-centric and Harapan representing a multiethnic coalition, Ruhan said there needs to be a solution on how to bridge this gap as there is a possibility of the formation of a minority government.
“If Harapan were to get the most number (of seats), would the other parties be willing to nominate (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) as the next prime minister, and secondly, would they, particularly BN and PN, be able to accept DAP as part of the so-called coalition to form the government? This is the question that Harapan would have to face,” he said.
Citing the trends from the previous general elections, Ruhan stated that the prime minister has always been nominated by a Malay-based party, including the appointment of Dr Mahathir from the Umno splinter party Bersatu as Malaysia’s seventh premier.
Bersatu had won only 13 seats that year.
“If we look at the patterns in the past, the prime minister is nominated by the party only if it manages to get a simple majority. But if they are not able to do so, that is the question.
“Based on the previous GE14, even though Dr Mahathir was with Bersatu at the time, which had the least number of seats (in Harapan), the MPs still chose him as the prime minister. This time around, it is uncertain if other parties are willing to accept Anwar (from Harapan) as the prime minister. This includes Sabah and Sarawak, which have 56 parliament seats in total. Would they be able to accept Anwar and DAP, or do they prefer PN, BN or GTA?
“We are currently in a transitional period after 60 years. Based on the factors mentioned, we need to find a solution. Other than the possibility of a minority government, there is also a unity government. But what the mechanism would be is yet to be known as the difference is too wide between multiethnicity and pro-Malay,” he said.
Ruhan added that although the voting trend of the additional six million first-time voters, as a result of Undi18 and automatic voter registration, is yet to be known, Malaysian politics have a long history and tradition of negotiation and bargaining, which is expected to take place should a hung parliament occur.
“How to resolve this … there needs to be a change in the ways of political thinking. They would somehow find a way in order to get the power but how are they going to share it?” he said.
Meanwhile, senior lawyer Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos said that while the sharing of power between different coalition parties might be the new norm, Malaysia should take heed of other countries such as our neighbour, Indonesia.
“Indonesia has the experience of appointing a shared government after those days of having the same government for decades. Maybe Malaysia is also moving towards that, learning to share power for the sake of the people and the country,” he said.
He added that in the last two years, the people of Malaysia have grown in political maturity and that the idea of a mixed-coalition government might just work.
Jahabardeen also stated that Sabah and Sarawak have always been considered the deciding factors in the formation of a Federal government.
“It is a positive development that the ethnic people of Sabah and Sarawak are also entering the political discourse in Malaysia instead of always just the Malays, Chinese and Indians.”
This article first appeared in the Selangor Journal monthly November edition, published on November 14, 2022.