Dissecting the 2018 Election in Malaysia

June 28, 2018

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Dissecting the 2018 Election in Malaysia: The End of Cronyism?

Left to Right: Asia Centre co-founder and Chairman, Board of Directors Dr. James Gomez; Dr. Victor Karunan; Mr. Lutfi Hakim; Prof. Dr. Mohd Azizuddin bin Mohd Sani; Mr. Scott Edwards; Asia Centre co-founder and Executive Director Dr. Robin Ramcharan

The key challenge of undoing six decades of cronyism, patronage and money politics was a central point highlighted during Asia Centre’s Roundtable discussion on the Malaysian elections held in May 2018. Despite the political earthquake, the end of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) rule in Malaysia after 61 years and the defeat of former Prime Minister Najib’s government, fundamental change is not guaranteed.

All speakers at the roundtable, held on 22 June 2018 at Asia Centre, observed this critical point. It remains to be seen if the new government of Pakatan Harapan (PH) can usher out the politics of ‘money, race and patronage’.  After all, PH is led by a member of the old guard, 92-year old PM Mahathir, who had mentored former PM Najib  and helped to build up that system.

PM-in-waiting, 70-year-old Anwar Ibrahim, has forged an alliance of convenience with his former mentor and tormentor, Mahathir. Should Anwar be designated PM, is he likely to bring fundamental change?

The desire for change among a large percentage of the youth was raised as a factor tipping the balance in favour of PH, which appeared on the political scene at the perfect time. Another key immediate factor was the disaffection of voters with the well-documented corruption scandals rocking former PM Najib, which resulted in a drift towards authoritarianism and harassment of political opposition to his Government.

Creeping authoritarianism, including recent attempts to stifle freedom of expression through hastily passed ‘fake news laws’ prior to the election, was a noticeable feature of the Najib’s rule over the past decade, amidst other longer term factors affecting the election. Already in the 2013 election, it became apparent that minority groups, notably Malaysian Chinese,were less willing to accept the national affirmative action plan that has privileged the Bumiputra. Indigenous peoples, such as the Orang Asli, also have become wary of their routine treatment by politicians as ‘second class’ citizens.

Splits in the BN coalition had begun to appear well before May 2018. In addition, the new administration will need to contend with an economy that has featured rising costs of living in recent years.

Resolute action to tackle these deeper problems will be a drawn out affair, especially in the uncertain leadership transition that is set to take place in two years, with Anwar assuming the mantle of Prime Minister, while his family presumably gives way as he succeeds.

The rich discussion was moderated by Dr. Robin Ramcharan of Asia Centre. The discussion was animated by expert commentators from Malaysia and the UK: Dr. Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani (PhD), Professor of Politics and International Relations at the School of International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM); Mr. Lutfi Hakim, independent consultant and an associate of IMAN Research, where he was previously a research lead; Dr. Victor Karunen, lecturer and former UN official with UNICEF; and Mr. Scott Edwards, doctoral candidate at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Cooperation, Conflict, and Security (ICCS).

The Roundtable set the scene at Asia Centre’s third anniversary celebrations, where Asia Centre announced its new branch in Malaysia. The second Centre in Johor Bahru will be rolled out over 2018-2019. All expressions of interest for collaboration in Malaysia can be sent to contact@asiacentre.co.th.



Photos from the event are available here. This event was held with the support of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.


5 thoughts on “Dissecting the 2018 Election in Malaysia

  1. Pakatan Harapan has still to be on its toes as the Malay vote is almost split 3 ways between PH, BN and PAS. PAS will most likely replace BN as the top contender for the Malay vote.

  2. As long as there is dissent and race prejudice among the races in Malaysia, it is not guaranteed PH would remain intact to rule the country in many years to come. One must remember that most members of PBBM and PKR were one time or other from UMNO and it is not possible to erase completely their roots of feelings for the society they belong to. At one end DAP is fighting for malaysian Malaysia for equal opportunities while the others have already started speaking of race ratio of students intake for Tertiary Education and affirmative action to privileged group of our society.

    People have waited for this good news of PH taking over after long period of 61 years to their joyous moments of the change for the people to live harmoniously in this beautiful country of ours. It is therefore, the true leadership to rule this country is yet to be seen though Tun M has come out with some hope at this late age with some vengeance I believe. What is in Anwar’s hope (PM-In-Waiting) of taking over from Tun is everybody’s guess. We’ll wait and see.
    Somu, let us work together. I believe collectively we can make a difference, achieve harmony and enjoy shared prosperity. Enough of the Divide and Rule policy pursued by UMNO over the last few decades. –Din Merican

  3. Congratulation for being No.2 Blogger. Please Read Ku Sufian Write blogspot.
    On Talqin For UMNO … BN UMNO could possibly win 69 parliamentary sears prior GE 14.
    Knowing PM NR… PH winning 102 … As at midnight polling.
    Billion are watching.. The writer assessment NR BN UMNI command only 5M Voters.
    All subject published before GE 14.

  4. Race should be confined to the (School ) Department of Anthropology, while
    Religion should confined to the (School ) Department of Theology.

    Both for its respective studies for scientific and academic applications on the how humanity and its culture evolved differently and thrives or regress over time in search for a better, personal and meaningful life whether spiritually and/ or realistically that can related to peaceful and harmonious coexistence with varying environments where other species, including human beings, live—but totally divorced from scoring political mileage and economic profits.

    In short, irrespective of who or what majority they are, religion and race should NOT mix with politics, this is the fundamental requirement for sustaining and achieving a collective, united and harmonious Malaysia.

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