The Loss of the Malay Centre Ground


About the Hybrid Seminar

Malaysia has been through another round of elections, this time for six state governments. For the first time in a long while, elections delivered an expected verdict – the status quo. Thus, Anwar’s Unity Government, comprised of former foes Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN) retained control of the wealthy and urbanized west coast states of Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Penang. The same electoral formula resulted in a virtual wipeout in the states of Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu, where Perikatan Nasional (PN) prevailed.

While much remained the same, there are important changes beneath the surface. Even though PH prevailed in non-Malay majority seats, often with resounding margins, it lost ground in its relatively limited number of Malay-majority seats. And, its new electoral partner, UMNO, was largely ineffective in securing new seats outside its bastion of Negri Sembilan. Despite prevailing in early state elections in Melaka and Johor, UMNO seems constrained by its past and current leadership to the southern part of the peninsula.

Thus, Malaysia appears more divided politically as the Malay centre ground has melted away. In its place lies identity politics as articulated by Perikatan Nasional (PN), comprised of the Islamist party, PAS, and its partner Bersatu. Yet, it is not certain that PN is actually the vehicle of choice for Malay voters. Instead, it may be the default given the lack of a viable alternative to capture and articulate issues facing this segment of society.

With the recently concluded elections as the backdrop, this seminar will analyse the current juncture in Malaysian politics, before looking at challenges looming on the horizon for Anwar Ibrahim’s Unity Government.

About the Speaker

Khairy Jamaluddin is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Previously, he served as Minister at Malaysia’s ministries of Youth and Sports, Science and Technology, and Health. He was also the Coordinating Minister for the Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. He was a three-term Member of Parliament and former Leader of UMNO Youth.


This is a hybrid event which will be held at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS).

Attending the Event In-person at ISEAS

To join the event in-person at ISEAS, please register via the ISEAS mobile app, available on iOS and Android via the Apple or Play store. Search “ISEAS” to find or scan this QR code.

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Seating capacity is limited. Do register early to avoid disappointment.

Attending the Event Virtually via Webinar

To join the event virtually at the specified date and time using your internet devices, please register here to receive your unique login link for the webinar via the zoom platform.

If you have questions for the speaker, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


Sep 08 2023


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2 / Webinar