Seminar on “Malaysia Baru and the Changing Nature of Politics – Navigating the Uncertainty”

In this seminar, former Johor Chief Minister Khaled Nordin expounds on the changing nature of Malaysian politics and ways of navigating the current uncertainties.

Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series

Tuesday, 10th March 2020 – Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, UMNO Vice President, former Chief Minister of Johor, and former Minister of Higher Education spoke at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute on the recent seismic political changes underway in Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin (left) expounded on the changing nature of Malaysian politics. Dr Francis Hutchinson (right) moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Datuk Seri Khaled began with a brief description about the context leading up to formation of Muafakat Nasional – the political alliance between UMNO and the Islamist PAS. Pakatan Harapan, among large segment of Malays, was perceived to be disinterested in championing for Islam, Bahasa Malaysia and the Royalty. According to Datuk Seri Khaled, the former administration also terminated several welfare assistance policies for rural communities which further intensified economic vulnerability among rural Malays. In light of widespread negative sentiment towards Pakatan Harapan as illustrated in polls and by-election defeats in 2019, UMNO and PAS formed alliance initially under the banner of Penyatuan Ummah (Muslim Unity). Datuk Seri Khaled revealed that PAS and UMNO were conscious that non-Malay support was crucial for the coalition’s survival, and the alliance was subsequently formalised under the inclusive term Muafakat Nasional (National Consensus).

Datuk Seri Khaled subsequently opined that political infighting within Pakatan Harapan cumulated in its eventual collapse on 24th February 2020. Datuk Seri Khaled explained that PKR was severely fractured with entrenched factionalism between Anwar and Azmin, resulting in political instability for Malaysia, considering that PKR forms the largest component in Pakatan Harapan. In addition, the Tanjung Piai by-election made bare tensions among the various component parties, as Pakatan Harapan failed to collaborate as a united front during the campaign.

Datuk Seri Khaled commented that, unlike Muafakat Nasional, the current ruling Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) coalition is not a formal alliance. Instead Perikatan Nasional is the outcome of MPs collaborating across party lines. He added that the impetus to form a new coalition gained momentum after the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Tun Mahathir.

Datuk Seri Khaled is confident that Perikatan Nasional will remain as the ruling government despite Pakatan Harapan’s proposal of no-confidence vote. Datuk Seri Khaled added that the new Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin is not pressured to pass the baton, and is thus not constrained by the succession dispute which plagued Tun Mahathir and Anwar. In addition, all Malay dominant parties endorse Perikatan Nasional, which provides legitimacy to the new coalition. Datuk Seri Khaled concluded that the Perikatan Nasional administration faces much challenges ahead given Malaysia’s slower economic growth rates in the face of the US-China trade war, China’s slow-down and Covid-19.

The seminar was very well-attended. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

In the question and answer session, Datuk Seri Khaled responded to a range of questions pertaining to: the potential merger between PPBM and UMNO; the composition of Muhyiddin’s cabinet; role of non-governmental organisations and the monarchy in the political transition. The seminar drew a large crowd of more than 100 participants from various sectors including academia, civil service and foreign diplomatic corps.