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Seminar on "The Political Landscape in Malaysia Ahead of GE-15"

Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series

Wednesday, 16 October 2019 - Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, former Menteri Besar of Selangor, delivered a lecture at the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute to share his thoughts about the political landscape in Malaysia ahead of the 15th General Election. Before entering into politics, he served as the Chief Executive Officer of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) during 1979 to 1994, which was the largest government-controlled fund management company in Malaysia. Tan Sri Abdul Khalid is currently an economic advisor to the state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu.

Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim (right), shares his thoughts about the political landscape in Malaysia ahead of the 15th General Election. Dr Francis Hutchinson (left) moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

In his presentation, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid argued that since the 2018 General Election UMNO has lost its dominance and prestige, and is no longer perceived as the sole political party competent to govern Malaysia. He opined that Malaysia faces substantial uncertainty ever since the 2018 regime change due to inherent tensions within Pakatan Harapan. Despite the formal coalition structure, obstacles persist which prevent effective collaboration among the Pakatan Harapan component members. Tan Sri Khalid illustrated his argument with two prominent examples. In the first instance, the continued push of “Malaysian Malaysia” narrative by Democratic Action Party (DAP) is at odds with prevailing Malay nationalistic sentiments. Prime Minister Mahathir has to satisfy DAP’s concerns while simultaneously appeasing Malay sentiments. In addition, the succession question remains unresolved with the transition timeline between Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim an “open-ended date”.

Lastly, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid commented that political uncertainty has adversely impacted domestic business sentiment and investment levels. Against a backdrop of US-China trade war and Brexit, political stability is essential for Malaysia to navigate through global economic headwinds. Tan Sri Khalid hopes that Malaysia would regain political stability in the near future.

The seminar concluded with a dynamic question and answer session. One participant inquired whether Government-Linked company (GLC) reforms under Pakatan Harapan would include privatisation of stocks in state-owned entities. Another participant sought Tan Sri Abdul Khalid’s opinions about his legacy as the Menteri Besar for Selangor. Tan Sri Abdul Khalid also responded to questions pertaining to the style of Malaysian Malay leadership, Dr Mahathir’s succession plans, amongst others. 

The seminar drew more than 70 attendees from diverse backgrounds including academia, private sector, foreign service, media, and members of the public.

The seminar drew more than 70 attendees from diverse backgrounds. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)