In an election widely seen beforehand as not at all suspenseful, things got pretty interesting for the long-ruling Barisan National.
Malaysia’s ruling party is facing its biggest electoral debacle after the opposition claimed wins in five of 13 states in yesterday’s poll, putting the Prime Minister’s political future at risk.
The multi-racial National Front coalition did get at least a simple majority in parliament, the elections commission announced, and will form the government at the federal level. But the two-thirds majority in parliament it has held for most of its five-decade-long rule was in doubt.
Given FPTP, this sentence explains part of the shock:
The opposition parties worked closely together in this election under the guidance of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, despite the fact that he is banned from politics.
Cooperation counts. So does timing. That ban on the former deputy PM was set to expire soon, which is the reason why the government called the election early, fearing Anwar, as a PM candidate, could lead the opposition to victory. Looks like a shrewd calculation.
The swing against the BN was quite substantial:
The opposition Islamist party PAS claimed shock victories in the northern heartland states of Kedah and Perak, and crushed the ruling coalition in the northeastern state of Kelantan, a PAS stronghold. The opposition was also gaining in Selangor state surrounding Kuala Lumpur, the state news agency Bernama said.
The BN is a pre-election coalition of several ethnic parties (see my previous overview). I wonder if their sense of shared fate–honed by years in power with two-thirds majorities–is strong enough to keep them together given the shifts in this election.
Thanks to Alan for a tip about this result, earlier in the thread on today’s Spanish election.