Malaysian voters erred on the side of conservatism in weekend polls, analysts say

It will be a tough road to victory for Malaysia’s reformist Pakatan Harapan party following weekend general elections where voters leaned towards conservative and religious parties, analysts said.

Malaysia faces a hung parliament and no clear coalition winner emerges to form a majority government.

Pakatan Harapan led with 82 seats, followed by ruling coalition Perikatan Nasional at 73 as candidates and coalitions rushed Monday morning to strike deals ahead of a 2pm meeting in Singapore/HK with the country’s king .

Parties and coalitions must win 112 out of 222 parliamentary seats to form the government.

The largest opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition is led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is seeking to become prime minister after being denied leadership for more than two decades. The rival Perikatan Nasional coalition is led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of Pakatan Harapan on Monday morning before meeting the king.

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“I think it will be extremely difficult for PH, despite winning the most seats, to form or even join a coalition government,” senior researcher Oh Ei Sun told CNBC. Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

“And that’s because I think there’s a form of ‘power’ that the rich are doing their best to stop PH from coming to run the country.”

He said that “the somewhat reformist image of the opposition group…is a distinct threat to the vested interests of the powers that be and I think they would very much like to consolidate their interests, and they will not like to be disturbed by the reign of PH”.

Many of the country’s younger voters, including those aged 18 to 21 who are voting for the first time, have also turned to more conservative parties despite expectations that the demographic will be more progressive, Oh added. citing the Islamist PAS. party and the Bersatu party.

Hopes for reforms in Malaysia’s political system dominated by the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition are dwindling after the weekend’s elections, Oh said.

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While voters dropped Barisan at the polls – the coalition won around 30 seats, less than half the number of seats won by its rivals – they did not visibly veer towards PH as the results showed. Instead, they leaned toward more conservatism, Oh said.

“In recent years, there has been this realization that we should perhaps turn away a little from this kind of clientelist politics, but those who turn away from clientelist politics, instead of going towards the more reformist, they decided, maybe to go to more religious, radicalized or extremist sides,” Oh said.

The historic loss of his seat in Langkawi by former prime minister and longtime statesman Mahathir Mohamad shows politics in Malaysia is changing, says Better Malaysia Assembly Advocate and Brother of the jailed former Prime Minister Najib Razak, Nazir Razak.

Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin said he might have the numbers to be prime minister.

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“It’s extraordinary. I mean, it’s like saying, you know, people don’t vote for brands. They vote for what you can give them. So I think the politics are changing,” he said. he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

Nazir also said more moderate Malaysian voters were surprised by the results.

If reform was what these voters wanted, he added, they would have to “pull themselves together” and present a better case to more conservative voters in the north and east, for example.

The youth vote had also shifted towards a more progressive vote, as they too wanted a Malay-led coalition, but not as liberal as Pakatan Harapan.

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