See More on Facebook

Analysis, Politics

Malaysia’s political parties

A look at Malaysia’s political parties ahead of general elections later this year.

Written by

Updated: February 27, 2018

As Malaysians prepare to go to the polls, let’s take a closer look at some of the parties and coalitions that will be battling it out in the 14th general election.

Barisan Nasional

Founded in 1973, Barisan Nasional (BN) is the longest ruling coalition in Malaysian history and the decades-old political alliance is showing no sign of stepping down without a fight. What started as the three-member Alliance Party comprising the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) has since swelled to include over a dozen component parties, with Malaysia’s three major ethnic groups represented.

The UMNO-led coalition enjoyed enormous success in the 2004 general election, winning 198 of the 219 parliamentary seats, but support from the BN has since begun to wane, with the coalition bagging 140 seats in 2008 and just 133 seats in 2013. Joseph Liow suggests in The Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Southeast Asia that the emergence of a more unified opposition is partly to blame for its decline in popularity, as was UMNO’s dominance within the coalition, with parties representing other racial groups such as the MCA and MIC taking the backseat.

Then, in 2015, UMNO president and current Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak faced perhaps the biggest threat to his political career when it emerged that an estimated 700 million dollars from troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had found its way into the premier’s private bank accounts. Najib was eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

More recently, the prime minister has been accused of “selling out” Malaysia to the Chinese following a series of loans and high-profile investment deals to the country, reported The Straits Times. The deals included the sale of struggling national car maker, Proton, the sale of 1MDB’s power plants, the construction of three ports and a RM55 billion rail link.

Other causes of concern for voters include employment and coping with the rising cost of living, according to The Straits Times.

Yet even after several turbulent years, most observers believe BN is in quite a solid position.

Panellists at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum last year did not seem convinced that the 1MDB scandal would be a major factor in the election.

Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large said that the scandal did not seem to have caused significant harm to Najib or UMNO while Ibrahim Suffian, director of Merdeka Centre, an independent opinion polling firm, said issues related to 1MDB were “approaching historical status.”

A rebounding economy and higher oil prices have also worked to Najib’s advantage, as he has been able to dedicate more funds to easing the burden of rising living costs without compromising his fiscal targets, according to Bloomberg.

His party has also focused on other common concerns such as affordable housing, which he recently said his government would continue to take steps to provide, according to The New Straits Times.

Pakatan Harapan

Founded in 2015, Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope in English, is Malaysias second largest coalition. It currently consists of four parties: the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the National Trust Party (Amanah), the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) and Peoples Justice Party (PKR).

In early January, the party surprised the country by naming former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mahomed, 92, its candidate for prime minister should it win the election though the coalition has made it clear that popular opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will take over Mahathirs position if he is granted a royal pardon upon his release from prison.

Anwar is currently serving a sentence for sodomy his second time jailed for this offence a charge he claims is politically motivated

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) will also be contesting the most seats of the four parties, battling it out for 52 of the 165 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia in addition to seats in Sabah and Sarawak, The Star reported. Mahathir’s PPBM will contest 52, DAP will contest 35 and the Islamist party Amanah will attempt to win 27.

It has been suggested that Pakatan Harapan’s decision to select Mahathir as their candidate was motivated by a desire to woo Malay voters, who make up 60 per cent of the local population and form a crucial part of the ruling BNs support base.

Mahathir has been credited with ushering in a period of impressive economic growth during his 22 years in power, and his new party, the PPBM, has positioned itself as aBumiputeraparty, according to Today – a term referring to Malays and other indigenous people.

Pakatan Harapan has also vowed to abolish the Goods and Services Tax and highway tolls, and hike the minimum monthly wage up to RM1,500 if it wins the election, according to Sin Chew Daily.

Still, most analysts seem to believe that the odds are in favour of BN.

Young voters, the main force behind the opposition’s impressive showing in the 2013 election, seem less intent on voting in the upcoming election, with four out of 10 young Malaysians not registered to vote Today reported, citing a survey by Merdeka Centre in August.

PanMalaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and Gagasan Sejahtera (GS)

Established in 1951, PAS is Malaysia’s main Islamist party. The party was part of both BN from 1973- 1977, and former opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, which was dissolved in 2015 after a bitter fight between PAS and DAP over the former’s desire to implement hudud, or the Islamic Penal Code in the north-eastern state of Kelatan. A new coalition, Pakatan Harapan, was formed in its place – without PAS.

The Islamist party, under its president Abdul Hadi Awang, will be going into the 14th general election alongside Gagasan Sejahtera (GS), an informal opposition coalition comprising PAS, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia and Berjasa, according to The Star.

No longer content with the party’s position as a “weak opposition,” Abdul Hadi has expressed a desire for PAS to either form a government or take part in the formation of a government, The Star reported on Jan 22.

According to Today, experts are divided on PAS’s likely effect on the election results, with some arguing that the Islamist party will hurt the chances of PPBM and Amanah, and others expressing doubts over its impact.

The party will be contesting in more than 130 parliamentary constituencies, and must win at least 112 seats in order to secure a simple majority in Parliament, according to The Star.

Among the states it hopes to win is Selangor, the richest state in Malaysia.

“We are not greedy to become leaders but want Islam to lead, save the country, save humanity,” Abdul Hadi is quoted saying by The Star.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Politics

President Xi emphasizes role of Hong Kong, Macau

Both Hong Kong and Macao were told to integrate with nation’s overall development. President Xi Jinping underlined on Monday the unique and irreplaceable role of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for China’s reform and opening-up in the new era. He also called on the two regions to better integrate themselves with the nation’s overall development. Xi’s remarks came as he met with a delegation of about 210 representatives from the two SARs who were in Beijing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. The position and role of Hong Kong and Macao will only be strengthened rather than weakened, Xi said. The two regions should continue to play a leading role and enable more capital, technology and talent to take part in the country’s high-quality development and in the new round of high-level opening-up, he said. People of the two regions should continu

By China Daily
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

Report of NK’s ‘undisclosed’ missile bases not new, S. Korea says

South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday played down a new report on North Korea’s “undisclosed” missile sites. South Korea’s government said that it’s going too far to call the North’s continued activity a “great deception” given that it has no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The group said it has located 13 out of an estimated 20 missile operating bases undeclared by the secretive communist regime. “The dispersed deployment of these bases and distinctive tactics employed by ballistic missile units are combined with decades of extensive camouflage, concealment and deception practices to maximize the survival of its missile units from pre-emptive strikes and during wartime operations,” the report

By The Korea Herald
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

‘Forced repatriation’ to pose security risk

International crisis warns that forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees could pose serious security risks. The International Crisis Group has warned of serious security risks of “forced repatriation” of the Rohingya, just as Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare for the November 15 return of the refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In a statement, the Brussels-based global advocacy body said Rohingyas strongly opposed the repatriation move and would do whatever they can to resist it. “This [forced repatriation] will increase tension in the camps and could lead to confrontations between refugees and Bangladesh security forces and greatly complicate humanitarian operations. “A botched repatriation attempt could potentially set back peace and development efforts by years,” said the statement released yesterday. It comes two weeks after Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation

By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

Suu Kyi stripped of Amnesty honour

The Amnesty International has stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the latest of several honours taken away from her since last year’s brutal military crackdown on the Rohingyas. This is the eighth honour that the former Nobel peace prizewinner has been stripped of over the past year, with Amnesty following the example of Canada, US Holocaust Museum, UK’s Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle and Canada’s Carleton Universities which also revoked Suu Kyi’s honorary degrees and awards. The long-celebrated Nobel Laureate was given Amnesty’s most prestigious honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009 marking the 20th anniversary of her arrest and 20 years since it declared her a prisoner of conscience. The AI yesterday announced withdrawal of its highest honour fr

By Daily Star
November 13, 2018

Analysis, Politics

US calls on China to remove missiles from Spratly Islands

For the first time, the United States called on China to remove missiles it deployed on three fortified outposts it built in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the Department of State released in a statement on Saturday (Philippine time) after the high-level US-China diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington. Both US and China committed to supporting peace and stability in the South China Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in accordance with international law during the dialogue, it added.

By Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 12, 2018

Analysis, Politics

Date set for Bangladesh elections

Bangladesh will hold a parliamentary election on December 23 despite the failure of political parties to resolve major contentious issues over the polls. The country’s chief election commissioner KM Nurul Huda said there was a “congenial atmosphere” to hold the polls and promised it will be free and fair. “We hope we will be able to hold a free, fair and acceptable election,” Huda said in a televised address. A day before, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrapped up week-long talks between the ruling Awami League-led 14-party combine and at least 80 parties under the banners of different alliances. During the dialogue, Jatiya Oikyafront, an alliance of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and several other opposition parties, demanded for a dissolution of parliament before the polls and the creation of a caretaker government. The ruling party, however, rejected it over const

By Asia News Network
November 9, 2018