Most pollsters covering Malaysia’s 14 GE predicted an easy victory for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak. With nearly 60% of Malay voters in Peninsular Malaysia expected to vote for the ruling coalition, and assisted by the latest round of electoral gerrymandering, the outcome of the election appeared a forgone conclusion. How and why were the opposition Pakatan Harapan parties able to pull off a historic victory and achieve a peaceful transition?
The election, and subsequent turbulent political developments, have raised new questions about Malaysia’s future. Is 93-year old Prime Minister Mahathir really committed to reforming a system that he largely put in place during 22 years of previous rule? Can the ruling coalition retain coherence in the face of intra and inter-party conflicts, and tensions over plans for Anwar Ibrahim to succeed Mahathir in two years? And can the government withstand attempts by UMNO, PAS and allies to stoke communal and religious tensions with claims that Pakatan policies threaten the Malay special position, Islam and the Malay Sultans, and the constitution?
ANU Malaysia Institute speaker:
Lim Teck Ghee’s career has straddled academia, civil society and international development organisations.
In his academic career, besides holding a Social Science Chair in the University of Malaya, he was a Visiting Fellow and Professor at universities in Australia, the United States and Europe. He has received a number of academic awards including the Harry Benda prize for his work on the peasantry in colonial Malaya, based in part on his PhD thesis at ANU.
After leaving academia, he was Regional Advisor with the United Nation's ESCAP and Senior Social Scientist with the World Bank, Washington DC.
On return to Malaysia, he was Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, ASLI and CEO of the Center for Policy Initiatives.
His recent books include: Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present and Future (2009, with Alberto Gomes and Azly Rahman); Challenging the Status Quo in Malaysia (2017) and Anatomy of An Electoral Tsunami (2018, with Thayaparan and T Netto).
Currently a public policy analyst, his work appears regularly in news portals such as Malaysiakini and his website. He also writes the column “Another Take” in The Sun newspaper.