Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will hold an audience with the two men, who are vying to become the country’s new prime minister, after none of them have received enough support from lawmakers to form a new government.
In a statement on Tuesday, the palace said that the king would meet opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at 16:30 (08:30 GMT).
Neither of the two men had received majority support from the 222 members, as a deadline of 2 PM (06:00 GMT) had elapsed, according to the statement.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called the election early under pressure from his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and said it would help restore stability after three prime ministers in almost as many years.
Here’s what you need to know about efforts to form a new government alliance:
Parliament of Hung
For the first time in Malaysia’s history, the election resulted in a hanging parliament without any single party or coalition winning the parliamentary majority needed to form a government.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, won 82 seats, meaning it needed the support of at least 30 other MPs to secure a majority of 112 seats in parliament.
The rival coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN), led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, won 73 seats, with the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition taking third place with 30 seats.
Other important negotiating parties come from the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has 23 representatives in the new parliament, while Gabungan Parti Rakyat (GPR), based in Sabah, has six representatives. Warisan, another party based in Sabah, has three.
How did the negotiations go?
Anwar announced in the early hours of Sunday morning after announcing the official results of the survey that PH had enough support to form a government but did not provide any further details.
The PH camp remained mostly silent on Sunday as Muhyiddin and PN dominated the headlines and shared a photo of the coalition in talks with Sarawaki leader Abang Johari Openg.
Abang Johari later issued a statement saying the Bornean parties and BN had agreed to support Muhyiddin.
However, BN denied that any decision had been made amid rumours that it would join forces with PH.
On Monday morning, party leaders from PH and BN were shown shaking hands and having discussions at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
After the meeting, Anwar said he was “extremely satisfied” with the way the discussions went and was optimistic that they would be able to form a government.
BN said every decision would be made by its top decision-making body, but although the talks seemed to be changing, PN released a statement saying it had presented a list of MPs to the king. He said he would support their attempt to form a government, but the statement did not name them.
GPS’s Abang Johari, meanwhile, said the situation was “chaotic” and his group was actually still debating which coalition they should join. Warisan said it would support a pH-BN combination.
In the eleventh hour on Tuesday, Ismail Sabri announced on Twitter that BN would not join any coalition and would remain in opposition. There was no comment from UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Ismail Sabri is one of the party’s three vice-presidents.
Without BN support, the leading coalition could end up governing as a minority government.
Thank goodness the Supreme Council of Barisan Nasional (BN) has decided not to support a coalition to form a government.
BN does not support Pakatan Harapan (PH) or Alliance Nasional (PN).
So far BN agrees that it remains the opposition.
— Ismail Sabri (@IsmailSabri60) November 22, 2022
Why are the talks so difficult?
The politicians involved in the discussions have been loyal and rival for years, something that has been complicated by Malaysia’s multicultural society. The majority of people are ethnic Malay Muslims, but there are significant minorities of Chinese, Indian, and indigenous peoples who follow Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, among others. Race and religion can be dividing issues.
Anwar Ibrahim began his political career as a student activist and founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia in 1971, known by the Malay acronym ABIM.
He later joined UMNO, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Minister of Finance and Deputy to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but he was suddenly sacked in September 1998.
Mahathir accused Anwar of corruption and sodomy, a crime in Malaysia, and thousands took to the streets.
The episode in which Anwar was imprisoned led to a call for reform and the creation of the multi-racial Keadilan Party, which means justice in Malay, a key pillar of the PH coalition. PH also includes the mixed-race but primarily Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is unpopular with conservative Malays, and the reformist Islamist party Amanah.
is also supported by MUDA, a youth party that has a seat in the new parliament.
The rise of the reform movement in the 2000s and beyond has led to a significant realignment of Malaysian politics.
BN, a race-based coalition that includes parties that represent Malaysians of Chinese and Indian origin, once dominated the political landscape after independence but lost power for the first time in 2018 — to PH — amid the billion-dollar 1MDB scandal. The performance over the weekend was the worst ever.
The main beneficiary of the coalition’s problems was PN, a conservative Malay grouping.
The coalition owns Bersatu, which was founded by UMNO members who were angry at 1MDB, and which was expanded to include former Keadilan members whose renegades led to the collapse of the PH government in February 2020.
PN is also owned by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has long controlled the northeastern state of Kelantan but has expanded its influence in recent years. The party, which has declared its intention to introduce Islamic law, achieved its best performance yet in the recent election, winning 44 seats and thus becoming the largest party in parliament.
Borneo countries, where Islam is not the majority religion, usually keep events on the peninsula — a two-hour flight across the South China Sea — at a distance. However, they have lobbied for greater recognition of their role in the founding of Malaysia and for a larger share of the federal government’s revenue.
The management situation in BN has also made the talks more difficult. Alliance leader Zahid faced calls for resignation due to the coalition’s poor election results, as he suspected he was pressuring Ismail Sabri to convene the survey. He is also on trial over allegations of corruption related to a charitable foundation.
Social media warning
The Malaysia-based Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) set up a team during the campaign to monitor hate speech on social media. His data showed that racist narratives dominated political discourse.
In an analysis over the course of the campaign, she identified PAS and its leader Abdul Hadi Awang as the worst offenders.
“They have tapped into anxiety-inducing Muslim voters by using phrases like ‘Go to hell if you vote for Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional,” and inciting violence against ‘Kafir Harbi’ (enemies of Islam) and calling on the Malays to unite and fight against the Chinese (DAP) and Indians,” CIJ said in a statement.
Muhyiddin was also criticized after he claimed at a PN rally that PH was working with Christians and Jews to “convert” Muslims in Malaysia. This speech was widely shared on TikTok.
“Such careless statements tend to create racial and religious tensions and conflicts,” said Secretary General of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM), Reverend Jonathan Jesudas, in a statement.
Race and religion have continued to dominate some areas of social media since the election. Videos circulated on TikTok referring to the race riots in Kuala Lumpur in May 1969.
On Monday evening, police warned people not to publish “provocative” content.
“Strict measures are being taken… against users who are trying to create a situation that may jeopardize public safety and order,” Police Inspector Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said in a statement.
The violence in 1969 resulted in the deaths of about 200 people, most of whom were ethnic Chinese, and the opposition parties, which were supported by the Chinese community, did better than expected in this year’s elections.
The material was condemned by Anwar, while Abdul Hadi warned people of provocations that could undermine harmony.