ANU experts react to shock Malaysian election

11 May 2018

Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute, Dr Ross Tapsell, has labelled today the 'most important day in Malaysia's history since its independence' with former leader Mahathir Mohamad claiming an extraordinary victory in the country's 14th general election.

Dr Tapsell and a range of ANU experts have commented on the lastest developments in Malaysia.

Dr Ross Tapsell, Director, ANU Malaysia Institute

"This is the most important day in Malaysia's history since its independence. It was an emphatic victory for the opposition and defeat of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was completely wiped out in a system set up for him to win.

"This is completely uncharted waters for Malaysia - a collection of opposition parties now need to form a coherent Government with a 92-year-old leader who has said he will stand down once he releases Anwar Ibrahim from jail.

"For a long time Australians have seen Malaysia as being quite predictable and even somewhat boring. In the past few years this has changed as Malaysia has been in the headlines as one of the most outlandish examples of corruption. Now, against all odds, they have had a change of Government; Malaysia is far from predictable."

Miles Kupa, Visiting Fellow, ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Former High Commisioner to Malaysia

"It's a remarkable upset, expected by very few observers and is a tribute to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his endurance and resilience. It's a very diverse coalition that he has successfully brought to power.

"It is going to be quite a challenging period for the new Government, given its diversity and relative inexperience. They will have to sort out their cabinet positions and what their policies are, one wonders how much they have prepared for the reality of Government."

Dr Amrita Malhi, ANU Malaysia Institute, ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs

"Najib has not exactly conceded defeat, rather that he will accept the verdict of the people - that leaves it open for him to line up a deal to stay in power."

"He's referred to the constitutional process through which Malaysia's King must appoint a Prime Minister - Malaysia is a constitutional monarcy and the head of state will need to play a role in any potential transfer of power."

"There was an open-ended quality to Najib's comments in his press conference that suggests the possibility of some deal-making in the background. Looking at the numbers, Barisan can potentially team up with the Islamist party PAS, a few independents, and the Warisan party in Sabah, yielding up to 109 seats. But Pakatan Harapan has 113 seats, and so far, Warisan has indicated it would prefer to work with them."

"Najib also mentioned that no single party holds a simple majority of seats (112) - that comment indicates that if he can't form a large enough coalition with the non-Harapan parties, he might move to break up Pakatan Harapan itself. There is a long way to go before a transfer of power, assuming such a transfer takes place."

Image credit: Sham Hardy on Flickr

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team