Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin won support from two political blocs on Sunday as he sought to form a new government after a general election produced a hung parliament, but he had yet to secure a majority required.
Muhyiddin, from the Perikatan Nasional coalition, said he had won support from two regional blocs based on the island of Borneo. That would take his alliance’s seat count from 73 to 101 – still short of the required majority of 112.
“I am confident that I will get enough support from lawmakers to allow me to be appointed prime minister by the king,” he said, without specifying which other parties might support him.
Longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whose Pakatan Harapan coalition won the most seats in Saturday’s election with 82, is also in the race to win support from other groups.
The inconclusive election saw Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Barisan Nasional alliance suffer its worst electoral defeat ever, winning just 30 of the 178 seats it contested.
This prolongs political uncertainty in the Southeast Asian nation, which has seen three prime ministers in as many years, at a time of slowing economic growth and rising inflation.
The instability reflects a transformation in a country that has been one of the most stable for decades in a region that has had its share of military coups, violent political upheavals and insurgencies.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak, one of Borneo’s regional blocs, said it was willing to work with Muhyiddin and the incumbent Barisan alliance to form a government.
Forming a government may require the involvement of the King of Malaysia, whose largely ceremonial role includes the power to appoint as prime minister a lawmaker he believes will win a majority.
On Sunday, the palace asked the parties to each submit the name of a lawmaker it says has a majority by 2 p.m. (0600 GMT) on Monday.
race and religion
A record number of Malaysians cast their ballots on Saturday, and they rejected Ismail’s multi-ethnic Barisan coalition, led by the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), which has long been the country’s dominant political force.
Race and religion are divisive issues in Malaysia, where predominantly Muslim Malays make up the majority of the population, with significant Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities.
One of the main winners of the election was the Islamist PAS party of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan group, winning the most seats of any party.
“I think what we’ve learned here is that the country is more divided,” said Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, deputy managing director of political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia.
Mahathir Mohamad, 97, and Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, suffered his first electoral defeat in 53 years, losing his seat to the Perikatan alliance.
Muhyiddin became prime minister in 2020, but his administration crumbled last year, paving the way for Barisan’s return to power with Ismail at the helm.
If Anwar were to become Prime Minister, it would be a remarkable transformation for a politician who, in the space of 25 years, has gone from being the heir apparent of Mahathir to a prisoner convicted of sodomy and today a figurehead of the ‘opposition. He denies the sodomy charges, saying they were politically motivated.