The defeat of Malaysia’s ruling party on 9 May was unlike any election result the region has ever seen. No party in Southeast Asia has held power for so long, only to lose it at the polls. In its place, a broad coalition led by 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has formed a new government.
Can such a diverse coalition remain united as it addresses fundamental questions of the Malaysian social contract, including racial preferences? Mahathir once jailed Anwar Ibrahim, but has now freed him: how will their relationship develop as they seek to govern together? Will former Prime Minister Najib Razak be held to account for the 1MDB scandal, and how will the United Malays National Organisation react to its first experience in opposition? What will the change in government mean for Malaysia’s relationship with Australia, given Mahathir’s difficult history with earlier Australian prime ministers?
The Lowy Institute’s Director of the Southeast Asia Project, Aaron Connelly, hosted a panel discussion with Amrita Malhi, Visiting Fellow in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University; James Chin, Director of the Asia Institute Tasmania; and Kean Wong, contributing editor at New Mandala, as they discussed these questions.