RSIS Seminar by Professor Meredith Weiss, Visiting Senior Fellow, Malaysia Programme, IDSS, RSIS; and Professor of Political Science, State University of New York at Albany
The Trajectory of Malaysia’s Changing Dominant-party System
Malaysia’s system of parties and coalitions has entered an unpredictable new phase. The 15th General Election (GE15) resulted in a hung parliament which required coalitions to consider different combinations of partners to make up a simple majority. The formation of a ‘unity government’ with several coalitions forging marriages-of-convenience highlight that no single coalition can now prevail independently.
The dominant-party regime established by Barisan Nasional (BN) is unequivocally eroding. Coalitions and parties have fractured and political alignments have become more fluid since Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) path-breaking victory in 2018, producing a substantially different array of competitors than previously.
Yet despite this less stable regime backdrop, this situation also presents opportunities for meaningful policy and institutional reform than had previously been plausible. A dominant coalition or party no longer has a vested interest in maintaining the institutional and electoral advantages for coalitions in power. All may see potential for advantage in shifting the rules.
This seminar will address the following questions, and more:
• What are the intra- and inter-coalition dynamics that could challenge the stability of the current ‘unity government’?
• In a partisan landscape where inter-coalition alliances are becoming necessary, what does it mean for parties who appeal to their bases on communal, ideological, or regional grounds?
• What are the implications for BN’s lead party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)?
About the Speaker
Meredith Weiss is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Albany. She has published widely on social mobilisation and civil society, electoral politics and parties, and subnational governance in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Malaysia and Singapore. Her current projects include research on local government and public-goods delivery, democratic representation and political elites, and youth politics in Southeast Asia.