Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia’s Prime Minister on 24 November, five days after the nation’s general election returned the first hung parliament in its history. Despite the hung parliament, the election was widely interpreted as an historic defeat for the UNMO party, which dominated politics from independence in 1957 until 2018, and had staged a partial comeback during the last two years of political instability in the country. Anwar, a former UNMO member with a long and tumultuous career in politics, has been the main opposition leader for nearly twenty years. He will be the fifth prime minister in as many years and will need to manage a broad coalition of political parties to maintain power.
This was the first Malaysian election held since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. Voter turnout declined from previous elections to 73.9 per cent, and despite an increase in the number of women candidates, the number of women in parliament declined from 33 to 30.
Following months of disarray in the ruling coalition, on 10 October Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament and called for early elections. The central election commission set the election for 19 November. The election will be the first since Malaysia lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, enfranchising 5.8 million new voters, and the government has already come under significant criticism for the decision to hold elections during monsoon season.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak has exhausted all appeals and will begin serving his 12-year sentence for corruption stemming from the money laundering and embezzlement case, popularly known as the 1MDB scandal. The sentence is considered the biggest step in Malaysia’s fight against corruption in recent years, as well as a reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary.