Malaysia’s GE-14: Missed Signs or Late Surge?

About the Seminar

The results of Malaysia’s 14th General Elections held in May this year were unexpected and transformative. Against conventional wisdom, the newly-reconfigured opposition grouping Pakatan Harapan (PH) decisively defeated the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN).

Despite a long-running financial scandal dogging the ruling coalition, an opposition victory had been all but discarded due to: the advantages of incumbency; fissures amongst opposition ranks well into 2018; and a favourable economic outlook. Indeed, prominent pollsters and commentators predicted a solid BN victory or, at least, a narrow majority.

Yet, on the day, deeply-rooted political dynamics and influential actors came together, sweeping aside many prevailing assumptions and reconfiguring the country’s political reality in the process. Voter turnout was significant, economic handouts were disregarded, and the effects of redelineation were limited. Beyond consolidating their support in ethnically mixed, urban areas, Pakatan Harapan took most semi-urban areas and made important incursions into rural constituencies. Beyond losing their parliamentary majority, Barisan Nasional’s control of state governments was decimated, and its East Malaysia strongholds capitulated. In addition, against all predictions, the Islamist party, PAS thrived, retaining Kelantan, toppling Terengganu and making important inroads elsewhere.

In order to understand the elections and their implications, this conference brings together ISEAS researchers and a group of selected collaborators to examine the elections from three angles: campaign dynamics; important trends among major interest groups; and local-level dynamics in key states. A central question running across the presentations will be whether the signs of these results were present in the run-up to the elections or if they are the result of an unforeseen last-minute surge in Pakatan Harapan’s credibility and/or Barisan Nasional’s unpopularity.

Seminar Programme
Click here to download the programme.

Attendance at this event is free of charge but registration is required by 24 September. As seats are limited, please register early. Admission to the event will be taken as confirmed upon written acceptance from ISEAS. For any queries, please feel free to email:

To register, please complete this form and return it by fax: 6775-6264 or email to by Monday, 24 September 2018.


Sep 27 - 28 2018


8:30 am - 5:40 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 1 & 2