The power of the Malaysian unity government was retained, but limited in 2023

2023 is the year Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's unity government consolidates progressive power. After taking office, Malaysia's permanent prime minister-in-waiting navigated an uncertain mandate, an increasingly polarized political environment and state government elections. Anwar finished the year in a more secure position – but will face an increasingly impatient electorate in 2024.

No party or coalition has secured a clear majority in the November 2022 general election. Following the intervention of the then Malaysian king, Anwar was invited to form a unity government. Drawing on ties with his former party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Anwar brought together a broad range of parties and coalitions to secure a parliamentary majority. The unorthodox manner of his appointment and the disparate nature of the ruling group called into question Anwar's mandate and many others. Probability of survival.

Despite initial urgent steps to strengthen his mandate in late 2022 and early 2023 – such as submitting a motion of confidence in Parliament, establishing a strategic MoU with his coalition partners. Allotment of Cabinet posts – At first there was little in the way of concrete policy decisions. Anwar has not used his time counterintuitively to develop a concrete plan of action, nor has many experienced cabinet members been reappointed in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration from 2018-2020. There were some early deliveries beyond Civilized MalaysiaAn attractive but poor governance strategy inspired by prosperity, social justice and democracy.

As Cabinet Ministers gathered momentum, policy frameworks were developed in the second half of 2023, such as the Madani Economic Framework, the new Industrial Master Plan 2030 and the 12th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review. While more comprehensive policies are welcome, most of the substance of these programs were developed by civil servants with input from line agencies and do not directly align with Malaysia Madani's lofty commitments to the concepts of respect, care and compassion.

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Despite an eventual two-thirds majority in parliament, Anwar was well aware of the unity government's limited traction among Malay voters. As a result, his administration has made several moves that have upset PH's largely urban voter base. These include increasing the budget for the Islamic Development Department and expanding the scope and powers of Sharia courts. Meeting strict clergy.

There has also been limited progress on long-promised governance reforms. Established by Govt Question time In Parliament for the Prime Minister, an executive Financial Responsibility Act Aimed at stabilizing public finances and strengthening the role Parliamentary Committees. However, the long-standing promise to separate the portfolios of Prime Minister and Finance Minister overruled any provision for giving them to opposition Members of Parliament (MPs). Equivalent Block Development Fund.

Critics have identified the use of measures such as the Homeland Security Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act. Manage disagreements. Most notably, Anwar's commitment to anti-corruption was called into question when Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was given a 'permit'.Discharge means not guiltyon charges of corruption and criminal breach of trust.

A great deal of political capital was spent preparing for the six state government elections held simultaneously in the peninsula in August. Covering three urban and three rural Malaysian states, the elections were set up as a referendum on a unity government. Buoyed by their credible performance in November 2022, the opposition coalition Perigadon National (BN) fared well. The largely Malay-based group focused on identity politics and PH's 'unholy alliance' with Umno. Although the united government and the PN retained their respective states, Results It exposed UMNO's waning appeal to Malay voters and some shortfalls for PH in urban wards.

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Having survived this electoral ordeal, Anwar is now in a much safer position. Apart from a state government election by the end of 2025, there are no major polls on the horizon and his parliamentary majority has been strengthened. Five PN MPs declared their support for his administration. outgoing the king He said I will not entertain Any move to topple the incumbent administration, the incoming administration has taken a firm stand against the moves that caused it. Political instability.

Meanwhile, the country's citizens are struggling economically. In the November 2023 poll, nearly four in five voters cited economic concerns First priority. With the high cost of living and little left over in their retirement accounts, Malaysians don't care much about politics. Yet the coalition government has limited fiscal room for manoeuvre. In recent decades, reintroducing the Goods and Services Tax has been politically prohibitive as Malaysia's oil reserves have depleted state revenues.

An October poll showed that Anwar's popularity had declined throughout 2023 and is now slightly up. 50 percent. All three of his immediate predecessors lost popularity in their first year in office as their administrations were quickly overthrown. Anwar must move quickly to address cost-of-living issues, articulate a clear and accessible vision for the country, and use his stature in parliament to enact measures to improve the country's institutions — with a view to cementing his legacy.

Francis E Hutchinson is Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Malaysia Studies Program at the ISAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

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