The six-state vote, held a day earlier, was widely viewed as an early referendum on Anwar, who was appointed prime minister in November last year to head a unity government after an indecisive general election.
Who won which states?
Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition retained three states: Selangor and Penang — two of the country’s riches states — alongside Negeri Sembilan, results released by the Election Commission showed.
The ruling coalition, however, lost its two-thirds majority in Selangor, as the opposition made strong inroads.
The opposition alliance Perikatan Nasional (PN) — whose key member, the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), aims to create a theocratic state in Malaysia — kept its hold on three poorer Malay heartland states of Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan.
Anwar tries to build unity
“This is the time for everyone, for all the parties, whether they win or lose, to work together to protect national peace, raise the dignity of the country and concentrate on developing Malaysia,” Anwar told a news conference.
But Muhyiddin said the people had rejected Anwar’s unity government as his opposition bloc won 60% of the total assembly seats.
“It is a clear sign that the people want change,” he said, adding that Anwar must take moral responsibility and resign.
Malaysian politics were thrown into disarray after November’s general election led to an unprecedented hung Parliament.
Anwar’s alliance won the most seats but failed to win a majority after many ethnic Malays threw their support behind the PN bloc and PAS emerged as the largest single party in Parliament.
At the behest of the king, rival parties came together to form Anwar’s unity government.
The support of the once-dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and other smaller parties gave Anwar a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Shaky alliance holds for now
Although the coalition has so far held together in a country, it is widely seen as unstable and needs stronger support from the Malay majority.
The election results showed that the PN bloc, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, made inroads in the three government-held states and a nearly clean sweep of seats in its three states.
Of the 245 seats contested, PN swept 146 compared to 99 by Anwar’s government.
Malaysia has seen three leadership turnovers in as many years after scandal-hit prime minister Najib Razak was voted out in 2018 over massive corruption at state fund 1MDB.
PN has sought to portray itself as clean of corruption and has strongly criticized Anwar for forming an alliance with his coalition’s former rival, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), whose reputation has been tainted by graft scandals.
Since coming to power, Anwar has focused on introducing economic and institutional reforms, including reducing subsidies for the wealthy, easing listing rules for companies, and abolishing the mandatory death penalty.
mm/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)