August 2023 | Malaysia holds state elections
Malaysia held elections in six of 13 state legislatures on 12 August. In what was held as an early referendum on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government, voters returned a result that matched the status quo, as both Anwar’s coalition governments and the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) held on to power in their respective three state legislatures. However, the PN made gains overall, taking 146 of the 245 contested seats nationwide. Official information on gender representation and voter turnout were not immediately available.
April 2023 | Mandatory death penalty scrapped
The Malaysian parliament instituted large-scale legal reforms on 3 April that included removing the mandatory death penalty, reducing the overall number of capital offenses, and generally relaxing the more severe sentences allowable under Malaysian law. The law applies retroactively and will allow courts to review the sentences of 840 death row inmates. The move was praised by United Nations experts and death penalty abolition activists, although it still falls short of a 2018 Malaysian government promise to abolish capital punishment entirely.
March 2023 | Former prime minister Muhyiddin charged with financial crimes
Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was charged with money laundering and abuse of power on 10 March. The charges relate to $51 million in alleged bribes from companies who sought favour with an emergency spending programme, and Muhyiddin faces twenty years in prison if convicted. Muhyiddin, who was prime minister until losing a November general election, maintained the charges were politically motivated. The politically charged trial is set to begin in May.
November 2022 | Anwar prime minister after election returns hung parliament
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.