Answering Your Top Three Questions on the Aftermath of Malaysia’s GE15

A collage of small illustrations on Malaysia's 15th general election, taken from the illustrations in the article.

Ram Anand speaks to Professor James Chin, University of Tasmania’s Professor of Asian Studies, to answer the top questions on what comes next after Malaysia’s fifteenth general elections: the Anti-Hopping Law (AHL), the Unity Government, and the impact of the upcoming six state elections.

This explainer comic is part of a super duper Between The Lines x New Naratif team-up to answer our readers’ most burning questions.

Did Malaysia’s Anti-Hopping Law Work Effectively Post-GE15?

The short answer is yes, it did. While GE15 resulted in a hung parliament and still saw plenty of negotiating with each other in order to form a government, none of these movements were made by individual Members of Parliament, which is essentially the purpose of the AHL being established in the first place. The Anti-Hopping Law (AHL) is a series of constitutional amendments designed to deter party hopping among elected MPs.
The AHL strips the elected status of individual MPs who switch or leave parties, essentially forcing a by-election if they choose to hop. However, it does not punish "en bloc movements", which is, in essence, political parties moving as a bloc to join a coalition or switch coalitions. This was done by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) during the Sheraton Move, and after the recent GE, we saw all parties move to en bloc, Barisan Nasional backed Pakatan Harapan, and the other outfits from Sarawak and Sabah such as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) did the same, helping Anwar Ibrahim become PM. The AHL is designed to prevent a repeat of Sheraton Move, where dozens of MPs switched parties and allegiances, causing the PH government to collapse in 2020.
"The AHL has worked as it was intended. It allows parties the full freedom to form post-election coalitions," said Prof James Chin, University of Tasmania's Professor of Asian Studies. By allowing parties to move as a bloc, AHL was designed to enable post election coalitions to be formed, especially when there are no clear winners, as was the case in GE15.

Will the Six State Elections Impact the Government?

The six state elections which are due by the third quarter of next year are all state assembly elections for the following states - Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang. These elections would not have an immediate impact on the federal government - as only state seats are contested - but the outcome nevertheless could serve as barometers for political temperatures in the country, be used to assess voting patterns, and be seen as a referendum for the government's performance.
The current government consists of Pakatan Harapan, their former rivals Barisan Nasional, youth-based Muda, and also Sabah and Sarawak parties all coming together to support PM Anwar. Perikatan Nasional, of which PAS is a member, was the surprise package in GE15, winning 74 seats to become the second biggest bloc in Parliament. PAS itself won 43 seats, making it the party with the most number of seats in Parliament, which means PAS can no longer be considered just a regional party.
"We will see whether the same (voting) patterns (as GE15) will be confirmed in the state elections next year. I think a lot of people are wondering if the huge number of seats garnered by PAS is an anti-Zahid (Hamidi, Umno president) vote or because they support PAS," said Prof Chin.

How is This Government Different from Previous Governments?

However, the Anwar Ibrahim government remains unique and unlike any other government Malaysia has had before. This was the first government born out of a hung parliament situation and also due to nudging by the royal palace, and not formed independently by concerned parties. This government's main components, Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, are not only former rivals, but are in fact ideologically different from each other. PH is a left-wing multicultural coalition, while BN, along with GPS and GRS, are parties built to protect majority Bumiputra rights. The government consists of PH, BN, GPS, GRS, Muda and several other smaller parties. PN is the only coalition that opted out of being in the government.
"Nobody expected PH and BN would be working together. One (BN) is about Malay rights and the other (PH) is about multiculturalism," Prof Chin said. He suggested that the ideological differences means the new government should not be judged immediately - and instead be given a year before being evaluated.

Want to learn more on Malaysia’s current political situation? Read this analysis by Dr Bridget Welsh to get a more comprehensive picture.

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