RSIS held a seminar on “The trajectory of Malaysia’s changing dominant-party system” on 16 January 2023. It was delivered by Dr Meredith Weiss, Visiting Senior Fellow, Malaysia Programme, RSIS and Professor of Political Science, State University of New York at Albany.
The seminar focused on the trajectory of Malaysia’s system of coalitions and parties as it enters a new and unpredictable phase. Dr Weiss began with an overview on how the dominant-party system established by Barisan Nasional (BN) has eroded, as coalitions and parties have fractured and political alignments have become more fluid since Pakatan Harapan’s victory in 2018.
This situation was highlighted in the recent 15th General Election (GE15), which resulted in a hung parliament that required coalitions to consider different combinations of partners to make up a simple majority. The post-election formation of a ‘‘unity government’’, with several coalitions forging marriages of convenience, underscore that no single coalition can now prevail independently.
Dr Weiss then addressed the implications of this less stable regime backdrop, contending that it could provide opportunities for policy and institutional reform as a dominant coalition or party no longer has an interest in maintaining institutional and electoral advantages for coalitions in power. The seminar closed with an outlook on the stability of the current ‘‘unity government’’ and the impact of this changed partisan landscape on BN’s lead party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).