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Malaysia gets a hung parliament for the first time; Islamic party makes major gains

The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition emerging as the front-runner

Muhyiddin Yassin Malaysian former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin whose coalition came second in the general elections.

For the first time in history, Malaysia has a hung Parliament in a tightly-contested election, which also witnessed the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition emerging as the front-runner.

The PH coalition, led by Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, won 83 out of 220 seats but failed to get a majority to form the government. 

The ruling party Malay-based Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance led by former premier Muhyiddin Yassin, came second with 73 seats. It rode on the strong show by its ally Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has touted shariah or Islamic law. 

The PAS more than doubled its haul to 43 seats, making it the single largest party in the country. Religion is a serious factor in Malaysia, where the Muslim ethnic-Malay population make up the majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indians the minorities.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition — dominated by his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party — suffered a major setback with just 30 seats in its kitty. Another party which bit the dust was former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's coalition.

Anwar Ibrahim

With no party gaining majority, the political uncertainty prevailing in the country could worsen amid economic crisis and inflation. This could also mean that Malaysia’s constitutional monarch may choose the Prime Minister. 

Regional experts predict what ensue will be horse trading though Anwar claims to have the support to form the government.

Anwar told a news conference that he has the support in writing from lawmakers to obtain a simple majority and willsubmit the same to the country's king Al-Sultan Abdullah. "We have obtained the majority, which means more than 111," he was quoted by AP. 

If that is to happen, it will be a comeback of sorts for Anwar who was once the heir apparent to the premiership before being jailed after sodomy conviction and then reemerging as the opposition leader.

Muhyiddin too has claimed he has the numbers to form the government, stating that he received a letter from the palace indicating his bloc may have been given preference to form a government over Anwar. He said he was confident he could form a stable government and is willing to work with anyone except the PH.  

Meanwhile, UMNO leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a statement that his alliance has accepted the results and expressed willingness to set aside differences to ensure a stable government.

Major losses

Mahathir lost his seat in northern Langkawi island in a shock defeat to Muhyiddin's bloc.

Though Anwar, 75, won in northern Perak state his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar lost to a PAS candidate in the family’s longtime stronghold in Penang state. 

Though there are 222 seats in Malaysia, elections were held only to 220 seats. Polling for one seat has been postponed after the death of a candidate and another due to bad weather.

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