2024/21 “A Deep Dive into Malaysia’s People’s Justice Party (PKR)” by James Chai

Facebook Page of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Malaysia. Accessed 18 March 2024.


  • Born from a protest movement against Anwar Ibrahim’s unceremonious sacking by Mahathir Mohamad in 1998, the People’s Justice Party (PKR) was officially established from a merger between two parties. Founding members came from different segments of society, tied by a common bond to its twice-jailed leader, Anwar.
  • PKR has emerged as a definite force in mainstream Malaysian politics, winning an average of 35 seats (16% of total seats) and 2 million votes (18% of total vote share) over the past 15 years. The party has clearly grown stronger from its wobbly start in the 1999 and 2004 general elections.
  • PKR is the second largest party in Malaysia, behind only UMNO, with 1.16 million members. Its membership growth is attributable to a low barrier to entry, party election incentives, and anticipated federal power patronage.
  • Selangor is PKR’s strongest base, with the highest total membership (30 per cent of total) and highest cumulative parliamentary seats won. This is followed by the East Malaysian states, though with low electoral returns, and Perak, where it has established a strong grassroots presence and won a sizable share of parliamentary seats.
  • The centre of power lies in the hands of the president and the central leadership council, although the national congress is the highest authority. The state leadership is less powerful compared to the divisions in nomination and grassroots matters, partly due to the members’ loyalty to the division leaders elected through direct elections.
  • PKR holds the largest party elections in Malaysia via a one-person-one-vote (OPOV) direct election system. The logistical hassle creates long and chaotic party elections that typically ends in highly factionalised contests. The party has introduced online voting and a hybrid voting system as a corrective measure in recent years.
  • Most PKR MPs win mixed and Malay-majority seats in urban and semi-urban enclaves. This reflects PKR’s commitment to multiracialism and the party’s limited ability to win Malay votes. PKR has benefited from the split in Malay votes among several parties, and this puts its electoral successes at risk if Malay votes converge to a dominant Malay party again in future. 

*James Chai is Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and a columnist at MalaysiaKini and Sin Chew Daily.

ISEAS Perspective 2024/21, 20 March 2024

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The earliest members of the People’s Justice Party (PKR) disagree on when the foundational political movement, Reformasi, started. Some say it was 2 September 1998 when the then deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was unceremoniously sacked by then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.[1] Some say it was 20 September 1998 when the largest protest was staged at Masjid Negara.[2] Some say it was 17 May 2004 when the Registrar of Societies approved the merger between Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti Rakyat Malaysia.[3] In all versions, members agree that the party was tied by a common bond to its larger-than-life figurehead, who had gone to jail twice on controversial charges: Anwar Ibrahim.

The party consists of an ‘unusual collection of leaders’[4] from UMNO, PRM, student bodies, street activists, Islamic movements, and NGOs.

Despite being one of the youngest mainstream parties in the country (see Appendix 1), PKR has managed to reverse its electoral fortunes in the first decade to emerge as a key competitor in Malaysian politics.

Notwithstanding the party’s storied past and current prominence in Malaysia’s political landscape, research on PKR remains scant compared to that done on UMNO, PAS, and DAP. This limits public understanding of the party and how it works. This Perspective will first look at how PKR operates, particularly its entry criteria, membership, organisation structure, and finance. The second part examines the key differentiators of PKR, which are its unique direct election system and diverse membership. The paper concludes with reflections on the findings.

PKR’s political journey: A brief glimpse

Table 1: Seats won and vote share of PKR since its first election in 1999

Election CycleYearTotal Parliamentary SeatsSeats Contested by PKRSeats Won by PKR (per cent of total seats)Win RateTotal Votes (vote share)
GE101999193785 (2.6 per cent)6.41 per cent773,679 (11.7 per cent)
GE112004219801 (0.5 per cent)1.25 per cent617,518 (8.9 per cent)
GE1220082228431 (14.0 per cent)36.90 per cent1,509,080 (18.6 per cent)
GE1320132229930 (13.5 per cent)30.30 per cent2,254,211 (20.4 per cent)
GE1420182227148 (21.6 per cent)67.61 per cent2,046,484 (17.1 per cent)
GE15202222210031 (14.0 per cent)31.00 per cent2,442,038 (15.7 per cent)

NB: Win rate as seats won divided by seats contested; only considers parliamentary seats.

Chart 1: Total parliamentary seats won and total votes received by PKR (1999 to 2022)

Even though Reformasi created one of the largest ever protest movements in the country, it was surprisingly unable to convert the anti-government support into seats, winning only 5 seats in parliament in 1999 (2.6 per cent), and plummeting to its lowest point with only 1 seat in 2004 (Table 1 and Chart 1).[5] This was due to a limited swing from the non-Malay voters who preferred status quo stability, and the anti-corruption appeal of BN’s Abdullah Badawi.

Since 2008, however, the party has gained stable prominence by achieving an average 35 seats (16 per cent of total seats) and 2 million votes (18 per cent of total vote share). In 2018, PKR even became the largest party in parliament, carried through its victories in marginal seats in West Malaysia; it made further history by being the first multiracial party to do so. The succeeding two years were chaotic for the party, however, when it experienced the largest high-profile defection, led by the former deputy president Azmin Ali. This stemmed apparently from years of intra-party instability. After a large-scale purge in 2022, party president Anwar Ibrahim finally achieved his aspiration of becoming prime minister, Malaysia’s tenth.

Additionally, the party governed the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, since 2008 and 2018 respectively, with a substantial majority.


Entry Criteria

To be a PKR member, the applicant has to register at the party headquarters, located in Kelana Jaya, Selangor, either physically or online, and the selected division must ensure that this registration is made with the party secretary-general as the main person in charge.[6]

Table 2: Comparison of entry criteria between select mainstream parties

Types of membershipsOrdinary and lifetime members[7]Ordinary, allied (bergabung), associate (bersekutu), and lifetime membersOrdinary, associate, and lifetime membersOrdinary and lifetime members
Minimum age18 years old[8]16 years old[9]13-15 years old[10]17 years old
Fees (ordinary members, yearly)RM2.00[11]RM2.00RM10.00[12]RM10.00[13]
Fees (lifetime members, one-off)RM300.00[14]RM100.00RM102.00RM200.00

As seen in Table 2, the entry criteria of PKR are not substantially different from those of other mainstream parties. Unlike UMNO and PAS, PKR does not have membership types outside the standard ordinary members (RM2.00 yearly fee) and lifetime members (RM300.00 one-off fee). Surprisingly, PAS has the highest yearly fees among the mainstream political parties because it also exacts a mandatory purchase of a membership card and a registration fee which other parties do not do.

Importantly, the estimated compliance rate for payment of yearly fees seems low for PKR, either due to inefficient collection or members’ refusal.[15] Though PKR’s 18-year-old minimum age seemed progressive at the inception, the Undi-18 wave compelled parties such as UMNO to loosen their minimum age to 16; thus, PKR’s current minimum age is the most restrictive.

Interestingly, Article 4 of PKR’s constitution attached the measurements and colours for the flag and symbol of the party. The ‘eye’ on the flag is the ‘light that sees sacrifice for justice’, and the red represents courage and commitment to seek the truth.

PKR’s constitution is also differentiated for its details on policy commitments. Compared to the Malay parties, PAS and UMNO, which broadly highlight religion, Malay language, and national unity,[16] PKR’s purpose reads like a manifesto.

Table 3: Select articles of PKR party constitution relating to policy positions

Constitutional articlesDescription
5.8Distribution of powers with East Malaysia, in accordance with Malaysia Agreement 1963
5.10Special position of Malay and East Malaysian bumiputeras who are poor and abandoned, and fair protection for non-Malays and non-bumiputeras who are poor and abandoned
5.11Fair and dynamic economy, growth and fair distribution, free from oppression and wastage, overcome poverty and concentration of wealth
5.12High-quality infrastructure (education, health, housing, transport) with affordable rates
5.13Workers’ rights protected
5.14Women’s position empowered as the backbone of society, respect for women, committed to achieving 30 per cent participation in leadership and decision-making[17]
5.15Meaningful expansion of rights for youths
5.16Orang Asli (indigenous community)’s quality of life and respect for tradition, with development plans that protect their land rights
5.17Environmental protection
5.18New international system based on fairness and democracy, foreign policy that is free and ethical, facing globalisation by creating a knowledgeable society that can avoid national threats.

As observed in Table 3, PKR’s constitution includes a wide range of policy areas to represent its values, including the rights and protection of the indigenous community, workers, women, and East Malaysia. The only other party with a policy-oriented purpose in its constitution is DAP. However, even then, PKR’s constitution is more specific, even committing to 30 per cent female participation in leadership and decision-making, and recognising the Malaysia Agreement 1963.


As of 2022, PKR has approximately 1.16 million members, making it the second largest political party in Malaysia, only behind UMNO which has approximately 3.39 million (Chart 2). Having a membership number close to that of PAS, and their ranking would be interchanging, PKR will likely remain among the 3 largest parties for the foreseeable future.

Chart 2: Total membership of each mainstream political party

NB: Membership numbers based on latest available, including UMNO (2022)[18], PKR (2022),[19] PAS (2022),[20] Bersatu (2021),[21] Amanah (2019),[22] and DAP (2022)[23].

Chart 3: Total membership of PKR from 2003 to 2022 (select years only depending on available data)

Select available data since 2003 (Chart 3) show that before 2018, PKR received steady new members, averaging 26,000 yearly applications. In its early years, PKR’s new members were driven by youthful idealism; the party represented a strong anti-regime sentiment. From 2010 onwards, it was the low barrier to entry that played an important role; after all, the multiracial party accepts members of all backgrounds. The direct election system also meant that, compared to other parties, members could vote and run for party positions. Ambitious candidates would then recruit more new members before every election to strengthen their own positions.

Membership grew rapidly to ~89,000 per year from 2018 onwards,[24] the transformative year when PKR was part of the Pakatan Harapan government. Membership rose again in 2022 when Anwar became prime minister and it is predicted to rise again, with PKR now being the leading party in government. There may be higher expectation of patronage among new members after PKR won big in 2018 and 2022.[25] PKR has not adopted the model of past parties of relying on access to federal government resources for grassroots programmes.[26]

Understandably, the rate of growth was lower between 2020 to 2021 in the wake of the large-scale defection event called The Sheraton Move, led by former PKR deputy president, Azmin Ali. Though there were reports of pockets of hundreds of members leaving the party with Azmin, the figure is likely much lower than was headlined. For instance, in Johor, the figure of members sacked was estimated at less than 200,[27] and Kelantan PKR stated that only 300-500 left instead of the reported 10,000.[28]

Party leaders argue that the membership growth and low defection resulted from a ‘brotherhood’ and ‘idealistic’ bond in PKR,[29]and the pressure to win in the party’s direct election system.[30]

Table 4: Total membership, sub-divisions, and cumulative parliamentary seat won (since 2004) in PKR by states

No.StateTotal members (2021)Total members (2022)Sub-divisions (ranting)Cumulative parliamentary seats won since 2004
9Negeri Sembilan47,79154,3271244
10Kuala Lumpur40,51146,0267018

Chart 4: Total membership, sub-divisions, and cumulative parliamentary seat won (since 2004) in PKR by states

The geographical concentration of PKR members and its successes is closely linked to the leaders and how they mobilise the ground.

Selangor was the birthplace of PKR’s activist and intellectual groups, including co-founder Syed Husin Ali, and was expectedly the first state that PKR governed. The state also has the largest PKR membership (Table 4 and Chart 4) by a huge margin, and it has won the most parliamentary seats for PKR since inception.

The East Malaysian states are ranked second and third largest despite PKR’s varied success there. In Sarawak’s case, this is due to the tireless efforts of environmental and human rights lawyers setting up base to fight the regime of former chief minister Taib Mahmud.

Although Perak only has a quarter of Selangor’s membership, it has almost as many sub-divisions, indicating a larger-than-expected grassroots strength, and sizable cumulative seats won. Leaders like Dr Lee Boon Chye were responsible over decades for setting up strong divisions like Gopeng.[31]

Kedah and Kuala Lumpur have been states that overperformed for PKR, i.e. delivering more seats with its comparatively smaller size. Kedah delivered the third-most seats cumulatively, but this plummeted to only one in the recent elections and the party was overtaken by its opponents. Terengganu is the only state where PKR has yet to win a parliamentary seat; it did win a state seat in 2013.

Party Structure

The PKR constitution specifies that the highest authority is the national congress (Kongres Nasional, KN), while the executive function is carried out by the central leadership council (Majlis Pimpinan Pusat, MPP)(Chart 5).[32] This hierarchy is followed by the separate wings (youth and women), state leadership council (Majlis Pimpinan Negeri, MPN),[33] and the basic unit of division (cabang), which requires a minimum 100 people to be set up.[34] [35] Other than that, the MPP has authority to create by-invitation political bureaus (biro politik) covering administrative and policy areas.[36]

This makes PKR’s structure quite similar to UMNO’s. In fact, before 2008, PKR’s Malay terminology of its bodies was similar to UMNO’s, calling divisions bahagian, its state leadership council Badan Perhubungan Negeri, and its central leadership council Majlis Tertinggi, and members anggota instead of ahli, as is the case today. However, these terminologies were changed to be closer to that of Indonesia, in order to be more democratic and to be devoid of phrases such as ‘tertinggi’ (highest), together with the ‘one person, one vote’ direct election system introduced at the same time.[37]

Chart 5: Organisation structure of PKR

(See Appendix 2 for PKR’s president and deputy presidents since 1999)

In practice, the KN is merely symbolic in passing resolutions on major directions that have been agreed to by the MPP, prior to the KN.[38] [39] Examples of these major directions include the merger with PRM,[40] the campaign to Free Anwar from prison, and the coalition with other parties to form Pakatan Rakyat and Pakatan Harapan. This is not unusual as the highest congress typically serves as a place to obtain legitimacy for a decision and boost members’ morale,[41] rather than functioning as a debating and negotiating forum.[42]

In the MPP, the most powerful decisionmaker is the president, followed by the deputy president, vice-presidents, heads of wings, and the 20 MPPs.[43] PKR is the first party to specify a three-term limit for its president; the only other party with a similar restriction is DAP.[44] Interestingly, PKR’s constitution does not describe the president’s powers, unlike other parties that describes the president or equivalent as ‘main leader’ or ‘head’.[45] This may mean that future PKR presidents may rely on precedents to determine the limits of their power.

Additionally, the MPN, like the sub-divisions (ranting), are not registered with the Registrar of Societies, thus they do not carry as much power as the division.[46] [47] MPN’s role is mainly to organise and coordinate state-level programmes. However, the separation between national and state elections means that the MPN has increasing negotiation power in deciding election and state minister candidates, as the president and election director will largely account for the MPN leaders’ views.[48]

A division’s strength comes down to how likely it can negotiate for a candidate to be nominated in an election.[49] The first criterion is whether the seat is considered a winnable seat,[50] and PKR’s strongholds have traditionally been in mixed urban or semi-urban seats, with Selangor as its core.

Second, divisions with large membership tend to have more power, as they hold the leverage of mobilisation.[51] Third is whether the leadership considers the seat strategic for training good outsider candidates, like Lembah Pantai,[52] Wangsa Maju and Bandar Tun Razak.[53] For division-level activities, its division leaders have complete authority; whereas for election nomination, their inputs are considered but not guaranteed anything more than that.

Over the years, the influence of divisions has waned. This is partly due to the introduction of an open system where members can submit nominations online, potentially bypassing a division’s preference. Anwar’s dual position as prime minister and PKR president also means that his increased influence creates greater centralisation in decision-making, giving lesser say to divisions.[54]


Although PKR is the second largest party in Malaysia, its main revenue source is donations from its elected representatives—a mandatory 20 per cent cut from their salaries[55]—accounting for 57.3 per cent of the total revenue of 2019.[56] The other sources of revenue are public donations (24.3 per cent), fundraising dinners (17.3 per cent), and membership fees (1.1 per cent).[57] The total revenue per year appears lower than for other parties; the party does not have assets or revenue-generating business activities like UMNO or MCA.

In the past, the only significant revenue-generating activity was the sale of the party newspaper, Suara Keadilan, which at its height sold 180,000 copies per week. Recently, PKR started a cooperative to generate revenue, called Koperasi KEADILAN Berhad (KIRA).[58] The party’s cost structure is lean, with minimal party headquarters upkeep, only requiring additional firepower during elections.[59] [60]


At its inception, PKR had adopted the delegate system to elect its leaders like other parties. Every year, around 2,000 delegates voted for the highest leadership, including the president, at the KN (Table 5).

Table 5: PKR’s party election system since inception

Party election systemDelegate systemOne-person, one-vote systemHybrid system

This changed in 2009, when the KN passed a resolution to make PKR the first mainstream party to implement the one-person-one-vote (OPOV) direct election system. This is a comprehensive system to elect division leaders to the MPP, including the president, deputy president, and vice-presidents.[61] The premise for OPOV at that time was to stamp out ‘unhealthy practices’ of money politics[62] and ‘phantom divisions’ that happened in other parties.[63]

The OPOV system created the most expansive voting system among all parties, giving up to 122 votes to eligible members, including voting for the president (see Table 6).

Table 6: Eligibility to vote and maximum eligible votes before and after the amendment to introduce a hybrid election system (mix of direct election and delegate system)

LevelsType of positionsEligible to vote? (2010-2021)Eligible to vote? (from 2022)Total eligible votes (2010-2021)Total eligible votes (from 2022)
MPPTop Six (President, Deputy President, 4 Vice-Presidents)YesYes66
20 exco-level MPPsYesNo200
Youth (national) Top 5 (Chief, Deputy, 3 vice)YesYes55
Youth (national) 20 excosYesNo200
Women (national) Top 5 (Chief, Deputy, 3 vice)YesYes55
Women (national) 20 excosYesNo200
Division (cabang)Top Three (Head, Deputy, Vice)YesYes33
15 division-level excosYesYes1515
Youth (division) top 3 (Chief, Deputy, Vice)YesYes33
Youth (division) 15 excosYesYes1515
Women (division) top 3 (Chief, Deputy, Vice)YesYes33
Women (division) 7 excosYesYes77
Maximum eligible votes12262

NB: Voters are only eligible to vote according to their eligibility, i.e. a 20-something member could vote for the MPP and division for the highest excos and the youth leaders, but not vote for the women’s wing leaders. That means a young female member would have the highest maximum eligible votes.

When run efficiently and credibly, the OPOV system is a source of strength. The selection is more competitive—the VP contest is always crowded[64]—and PKR leaders’ strength is assessed in a ‘survival of the fittest’ contest,[65]creating winners who are likely to be in touch with the national electorate and could mobilise the masses for a common goal.[66] Direct election also creates a sense of ownership, making members more supportive of the party over time.

However, the logistics and labour overload lead to lengthy campaign and election periods, which may give rise to factionalism and intense rivalry.

Since the presidency, helmed by Anwar Ibrahim (or Wan Azizah in place of him when Anwar was in jail or disqualified), is never contested, the focus—and the factional battles—has always been on the deputy presidency, seen as the heir apparent to Anwar. Teams are formed around the deputy president candidate, and the faction that receives Anwar’s blessing, however indirectly, is seen to have the legitimacy to win.

Table 7: Total days taken to complete the party election process

Year of party electionTotal days taken
201041 days
2014135 days
201851 days
202298 days
Average81.3 days (or 3 months)

While all parties take at most 2-3 days to complete their leadership selections, PKR takes an average 81.3 days (or 3 months) (Table 7). In 2014, the vicious three-cornered rivalry between Azmin Ali, Saifuddin Nasution, and Khalid Ibrahim took 135 days (~4.5 months) to complete.

Though many party leaders concur that it should be shorter, the length is due to the logistical nightmare, where the party has to organise the way a national election commission would, with a formal body, procedures, rules, coordinators, counting and polling agents, and even police and auditors.[67] As PKR has presence in all states, with 222 divisions, it also needs to coordinate the voting by states so that the process is managed without instances of manipulation or fraud.[68]

Box 1: Sample briefing materials of PKR party election

Briefing for PKR Party Election (Sample, 2022)  
. Administration of voting
. Documents and equipment for voting
. Methods of voting
. Date of voting
. Voting manual
. Voting day physical plan
. Voting rules
. Voting procedure
. Campaign code of ethics  

Efforts have been made in recent years to ease this burden. First, PKR adopted a hybrid selection system for the first time in 2022,[69] where the executive committees at the national and division levels are chosen by delegates (see Table 6 above). This halves the maximum votes available to the members, which had proven to be too many for members in the first place (‘over-democracy’).[70] Two, introducing online voting (via the ‘ADIL’ application) that will minimise logistics and potential cheating. In 2022, more than half the eligible members voted online, and this method may prove vital in handling the volume in future elections.[71]

These recent innovations to the party election system may increase the turnout rate, which has hovered around 15-20 per cent since 2010.[72]At the minimum, they have helped PKR reduce the campaign and election period to merely 2 weeks, massively scaling down the effort required.

PKR leaders have suggested external assistance, including from the national election commission, to ease the burden of logistics, especially as most involved in the party elections are volunteers with varying experience and organising skills.[73]However, PKR needs to overcome the low turnout rate and persistent factionalism in party elections before it can derive the full benefits of party democracy.


To date, PKR remains the only party to have won at least a parliamentary or state seat in every Malaysian state.[74] It is also the only party to have a division in every parliamentary seat in the country[75]—a feat not even the oldest party, UMNO, has achieved. This implies that PKR pursues diversity not in a ‘tokenistic’ sense, but as a meaningful factor.[76]

To an extent, this is by design. Not only was diversity an explicit aim of the party at its formation,[77] [78] it is also included in the constitution. Article 21.7 of the PKR constitution gives the president appointment powers of key positions, including the vice-presidents, secretary-general, treasurer, information chief and others. Among the vice-presidents, the constitution requires at least one leader to be from East Malaysia as an in-built diversity requirement. It is also common for the leadership to appoint any ethnic group underrepresented in the line-up.[79] Unlike Gerakan and DAP that started out as a more balanced multiracial party that reflected the national composition but eventually changed, PKR continued with its multiracial makeup at every level of its leadership, down to the divisions and political bureaus.[80]

PKR’s stronghold lies in mixed and Malay-majority seats in urban and semi-urban areas (Table 8). The ethnic background of its MPs largely mirrors the population (with the exception of East Malaysia) (Table 9), giving it flexibility to contest on a diverse spectrum.

Table 8: PKR stronghold demographics

PKR stronghold demographics 
Total stronghold seats40
Malay majority67.5 per cent
Mixed or non-Malay majority32.5 per cent
Urban62.5 per cent
Semi urban37.5 per cent
Rural0 per cent
Malay population mean (per cent)54.7 per cent
Chinese population mean (per cent)30.3 per cent
Indian population mean (per cent)11.0 per cent

NB: Stronghold as seats won at least twice by PKR

Table 9: Ethic profile between PKR elected MPs and Malaysia’s national population

Ethnic groupPKR MPs’ ethnic profile (2022)Malaysia’s national ethnic profile (2022)[81]
Malay58 per cent53.5 per cent
Chinese25 per cent21.0 per cent
Indian13 per cent6.1 per cent
Bumiputera Sabah and Sarawak3 per cent11.3 per cent

Nomination data in 2013 reveal that PKR was uniquely positioned to face the Malay, Indian, and Chinese parties of Barisan Nasional, showing that it was ‘walking the walk’ in its multiracial pursuit, extending to even East Malaysia.[82]

However, even among the Malay-majority seats that PKR contests in, the Malay population is barely over half, indicating that PKR has had limited success in courting Malay votes, and often relied heavily on strong non-Malay support to win. Furthermore, its strength in East Malaysia, especially Sarawak, has been eroded drastically after the Sheraton Move, as many key indigenous figures such as Baru Bian and See Chee How had gone on to form separate parties to fight for local causes. PKR’s partnership with the dominant GPS coalition with the present unity government will further dilute PKR’s strength in Sarawak.

Anwar’s approach has always been to merge and accommodate different beliefs under one roof. While party leaders are confident that PKR is unlikely to abandon its multiracial core to please Malay voters,[83] the recent erosion of influence at the 2023 state elections is cause for concern.[84]

It could be argued that PKR’s previous electoral successes have been largely due to voters’ anger towards corruption—most serious during the 1MDB crisis between 2016-2018—which coincided with the growth of Malay parties and multi-cornered fights that split the Malay votes. PKR has always benefited from fence-sitter swing votes, but that also makes it vulnerable when Malay votes converge to a dominant Malay party. PKR’s potential electoral upside can only be captured if it first defends its core and then manages to win enough Malay votes.[85]


Since its inception, PKR has been a party unafraid of taking big bets on the shape of society in years to come. One of its biggest bets—the OPOV system—has both yielded positive (rapid membership growth) and negative (factionalism) outcomes. The lower barrier to entry and expectation of rewards increased membership rapidly, but they remain under-mobilised, as evident in the low membership fee collection and turnout rates. The long-drawn party election has also exacerbated factionalism, typically centred on the vicious battle for deputy presidency, a position seen as the one that an heir apparent would hold, below the uncontested position of president.

Its second biggest bet was to establish a multiracial party in a meaningful sense. Its leadership, candidates, and representatives consistently reflect a multiracial mix,[86] [87] and this has given PKR an electoral flexibility and edge to compete at mixed and Malay-majority seats. Gaps, however, still exist, especially in its dissipated East Malaysia influence, besides its youth and Chinese membership.

PKR’s mobilisation strength and multiracial depth will ultimately affect its electoral performance, beyond its leadership’s strength in setting the narrative. The challenge for the party is to stay on course long enough for teething problems, however extended, to be resolved so that it becomes a party that succeeds in practising what it preaches.


PartyFounding year
United Malay National Organisation (UMNO)11 May 1946[88]
Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)24 November 1951
Democratic Action Party (DAP)11 October 1965
People’s Justice Party (PKR)10 December 1998
National Trust Party (Amanah)16 September 2015
Malay United Indigenous Party (PPBM or Bersatu)8 September 2016


YearPresidentYearDeputy President
1999 – 2018Wan Azizah Wan Ismail1999 – 2001Chandra Muzaffar
2001 – 2007Abdul Rahman Othman
2007 – 2010Syed Husin Ali
2018 – presentAnwar Ibrahim2010 – 2020Mohamed Azmin Ali
2020 – 2022Vacant
2022 – presentRafizi Ramli


For endnotes, please refer to the original pdf document.

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