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Is a Malaysian national unity government possible?

By Murray Hunter - posted Friday, 11 June 2021


Such a coalition,  should be able to end political infighting until the next election, due in 2023, as the parliament could run the full term without the need to call an election. However, countering this argument is the possibility the elite Malay group who have long dominated Malaysian politics, would hijack the government for their own self-serving ends.

Although Lim and Tajuddin have laid out a path towards a national unity government, the selection of prime minister would be the sticking point. Muhyiddin is unlikely to voluntarily give up the office of with only a slim chance of regaining it on an uncertain ballot. Any dream of a national unity government could end here. Probably the only way of advancing the cause of forming a national unity government would be for Muhyiddin to remain in place.

To complicate things more, there are the terminally ambitious political rivals Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad. Both are potential spoilers. The UMNO “court cluster” leadership -- named for the fact that most of the leadership is on trial for financial mis-dealings – would certainly have strong vested interests in how the numbers play out. They still carry great influence within UMNO, the largest single party within parliament.

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Pulling off any chance probably would depend on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong – the king, Al-Sultan Abdullah. He would need the council of rulers steadfast behind him. It’s a remote possibility that he would because of the need to overcome constitutional strictures. However, if the king did act, he would almost certainly win the support and respect from the Rakyat – the people -- a powerful lever in Malaysian politics at this time.

There have been no polls about whether the public would support a national unity government. Infighting, self-interest, immaturity, and rivalry between the country’s current politicians appear to make the chances slim that any potential national unity government could be negotiated.  However, pressure from a weary public desperate for relief from the county’s unceasing petty political wars could increase the chances.

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This article was first published in Asia Sentinel.



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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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