Webinar on “Assessing Broad Structural Shifts in Malaysia’s Political Landscape”

In this webinar, YB Chang Lih Kang discussed structural shifts in Malaysia’s political landscape in recent years.


Friday, 28 May 2021 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Yang Berhormat (YB) Chang Lih Kang to deliver a webinar titled “Assessing Broad Structural Shifts in Malaysia’s Political Landscape”. YB Chang has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tanjong Malim constituency in Perak since May 2018. Prior to becoming an MP, he was a two-term assemblyman for the Teja state seat. He is the Vice President of People’s Justice Party (PKR). YB Chang graduated from Malaysia Putra University with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering, and obtained his Masters degree in Public Administration from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

YB Chang Lih Kang
YB Chang Lih Kang shared that PH, despite being elected on a reform agenda, failed to carry out its electoral promises to implement socio-economic and political changes. Dr Francis Hutchinson moderated the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

YB Chang began the webinar with a historical overview of the opposition movement in Malaysia. He commented that the seeds of political change and reform were first sowed in 1998 with the rise of the Reformasi Movement. The opposition alliance’s first breakthrough occurred in 2008 as the then ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government was denied its customary two-thirds majority in parliament. The reconciliation between former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR President Anwar Ibrahim in 2016 fuelled the opposition’s momentum as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) was admitted into the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Riding on a wave of discontentment towards alleged corruption in numerous government-linked corporations (GLCs), PH defeated BN in 2018 and ushered in Malaysia’s first ever regime change at the federal level.

YB Chang shared that PH, despite being elected on a reform agenda, failed to carry out its electoral promises to implement socio-economic and political changes. Internal disagreements within the ruling PH resulted in numerous policy U-turns, including a failure to rectify key international treaties such as ICERD and Rome Statute. YB Chang argued that as PPBM admitted United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) MPs into its ranks, the PH coalition suffered a drop in credibility. With the withdrawal of PPBM from PH during the Sheraton Move, the ruling coalition was replaced by Perikatan Nasional (PN).

YB Chang commented that the present PN administration remains precarious due to the intense factionalism among its component partners, coupled with PN’s wafer-thin majority in Parliament. As a result, national politics has remained unpredictable and fluid to the detriment of Malaysia. He added that the recent Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) in Perak – where all parties gave unanimous support to the Chief Minister – could serve as a solution to resolve the acrimonious inter-party ties and gridlock in Malaysia.

Under the terms of the CSA, each state assemblyperson from the PH opposition would receive 200,000 Ringgit annual constituency allocation to serve their constituents, and would also be given the platform to voice their concerns with civil servants during district-level meetings. The PH chief in Perak is also officially recognised as the opposition leader in the Perak state assembly. YB Chang argued that CSA has delivered political stability to the state, while ensuring meaningful reforms to be implemented.

In his concluding segment, YB Chang explained that rural constituencies would be the key battleground in the next general election. UMNO and its allies, particularly the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), have historically performed well in rural constituencies but rural-urban migration and changing patterns of media consumption have reduced their political advantage. YB Chang contended that livelihood concerns will determine how the rural electorate votes in the next general election.

In the question-and-answer session, participants posed questions relating to the likelihood of an UMNO-PKR alliance, leadership succession plans within PKR, and lessons learnt from the collapse of PH. The webinar attracted 80 participants from Singapore and abroad.