Towards a New Malaysia? The 2018 Election and Its Aftermath.

AuthorHutchinson, Francis E.

Towards a New Malaysia? The 2018 Election and Its Aftermath. Edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Faisal S. Hazis. Singapore: NUS Press, 2020. Softcover: 283pp.

Following more than 60 years of one-party dominance, Malaysia's 2018 general election was a critical juncture as many of the country's political norms crumbled and stability gave way to fluidity. Due to the election's pivotal nature, the opposition Pakatan Harapan's unprecedented victory and the coalition's subsequent unravelling after a mere 22 months, the 2018 election will be revisited continually, not just by country specialists but also those interested in electoral-authoritarian regimes and democratic transitions more widely.

Edited by Meredith Weiss and Faisal Hazis, Towards a New Malaysia? is part of the first crop of books that explores the 2018 election and its impact, seeking to establish the drivers of change behind the electoral upset. The book is comprised of three parts, which collectively approach the election from different angles.

The first, and arguably strongest, part of the book focuses on election results and voting behaviour. More quantitative than the latter sections, its four chapters aim to establish voting trends among different population groups and the underlying reasons driving their choices. The section includes explorations of the following issues: overall voting trends; how and why Pakatan Harapan succeeded in attracting new votes; what role elite splits in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) played in undermining that party's performance; and how voting across ethnic lines affected the ultimate outcome.

The gem is the first chapter by Ibrahim Suffian and Lee Tai De, both of the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. Using polling-stream data from 165 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia, the authors dissect voting patterns by ethnicity, state and age group--and helpfully compare these findings with the results of the 2013 general election. This chapter comprehensively analyses the degree to which Pakatan Harapan captured the Malay vote and how this varied across the country, how competition between UMNO and the Islamist party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), came to benefit Pakatan Harapan, and how support for Pakatan Harapan, the former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, and PAS varied across different age groups. These findings furnish many crucial pieces of the puzzle to understanding how key pillars of Barisan Nasional's...

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