In 2018, the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (The Pact of Hope) won the elections for the first time in Malaysia’s political history. However, their success did not last long due to prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s unexpected resignation. Mahathir Mohamad’s unexpected resignation, and his party’s withdrawal from the coalition posed another obstacle for the ‘pro-democracy’ strategy. The new prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and the new government alliance have created upheaval among the citizens.
In 2016, after the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, Mahathir Mohamad left the United Malaysia National Organization (UMNO) and established his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Mahathir’s new party joined the opposition Pakatan Harapan, and the cooperation with Pakatan Harapan strengthened the opposition. The opposition’s efforts yielded results in the 2018 elections, despite the government’s hurdles. Recent events, such as the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 accident and the 1MDB corruption scandal have been useful for opposition campaigns. However, Pakatan Harapan’s greatest opportunity to gain votes is its multiethnic structure and its policies involving minority groups in Malaysia.
The agreement between Ibrahim Anwar and Mahathir Mohamad was that he would leave the seat to Anwar two years later as prime minister, but the exact date has not been specified. Two years later, Mahathir did not leave the seat to Anwar, despite pressure from Anwar and his supporters, but unexpectedly resigned without any notice to the government. After the King Abdullah’s acceptance for the resignation of Mahathir, he has stated that Muhyiddin Yassin as a new prime minister of Malaysia. Muhyiddin Yassin is the head of Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Bersatu. After his sworn for the prime minister seat, Yassin declared that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia will withdraw from the Pakatan Harapan. Muhyiddin’s connections with the former ruling government and the infamous prime minister Najib Razak have sparked controversy about him. Criticism towards Yassin immediately increased, especially after his party’s withdrawal from the government coalition.
After Muhyiddin Yassin came to power and a new government was formed with the old ruling party the UMNO, citizens criticized him and his new government for being undemocratic. A new movement has emerged among citizens who consider Yassin’s appointment to be disrespectful to the 2018 election results. Peaceful protests began the day Yassin appointed as a prime minister. The aim of the protests was to dissolve the ‘back door’ government and to have the people decide on the new government by re-election.
Activist lawyer Fadiah Nadwa was investigated by the police just because of her video posts on social media. Other activists were also under investigation for attending in the protests. Police forces justified their actions with the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act. Government has been used the Sedition Act as an apparatus to threaten the human right defenders, activists, and who tries to say something against the government. The Sedition Act restricted the basic civil rights of citizens such as freedom of expression. Although the 2020 protests were peaceful, the government continued to use the Sedition Act against protestors.
The government of Muhyiddin Yassin held power with pressure on citizens, and the effects of the global epidemic. Moreover, the King of Malaysia declared a ‘state of emergency‘ four days ago due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Malaysia has not ruled under a state of emergency since the 1969 riots. After the declaration of state of emergency, the United Malaysia National Organization’s (UMNO) lawmaker Nazri Abdul Aziz stated that he pulled out his support to the government. It was stated that other UMNO deputies withdrew their support for the government after a few days of the Aziz’s statement.
Situations in Malaysia are getting more complicated every day. First, the collapse of the “pro-democracy” government, second, the coming to power of Yassin’s “back door” government, and lastly, the country’s King declaring a “state of emergency”. All these events show that even the dominant parties in Malaysia are not on the same page. Events also support the need for change in government and its structure. King’s declaration of state of emergency shows the incapability of the current government, and it creates an advantage for the opposition parties.
- Amnesty International, Malaysia: Raft of police investigations a blatant attempt to intimidate peaceful protesters, (Amnesty, 2020). https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/malaysia-raft-police-investigations-blatant-attempt-intimidate-peaceful-protesters/
- Eileen Ng, Protesters rally in central KL over ‘backdoor’ government, (The Straits Time, 2020). https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/protesters-rally-in-central-kl-over-backdoor-government
- Jonathan Head, How Malaysia’s Government Collapse in Two Years, (BBC, 2020). https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51716474
- Max Walden, Malaysia’s crackdown on protesters condemned after elected government dumped, (ABC News, 2020). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-06/malaysias-crackdown-on-dissent-condemned-after-elected-gover/12028638
- Yen Nee Lee, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad Submits Resignation to the King, (CNBC, 2020). https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/24/malaysias-prime-minister-mahathir-mohamad-submits-resignation.html