Divisions persist among coalitions led by Anwar, Muhyiddin and Mahathir as Malaysia election looms

Analysts are expecting multi-cornered contests in most seats and this could give Barisan Nasional the upper hand due to its stronger core voter base. 

(CNA) – In the months leading up to the 15th General Election (GE15), Malaysian media reported that there might be a “big-tent strategy” adopted by the coalitions of Pakatan Harapan (PH), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), led by Mr Anwar Ibrahim, Mr Muhyiddin Yassin as well as Dr Mahathir Mohamad respectively.

According to the strategy, the three coalitions would work together to block Barisan Nasional (BN) from clinching victory in the upcoming polls.

Yet, with just a week to go before nomination day on Nov 5, any prospects of PH, PN and GTA adopting a united front to square off against BN appear bleak.

Analysts interviewed by CNA said that the divisions between these three main coalitions are likely to persist going into the campaigning period, and this could benefit BN and its lynchpin party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).


There has been little progress between the three coalitions to form any electoral pact or agreement.

Last Friday, GTA chief Dr Mahathir posted a video on social media, seemingly extending an olive branch to Mr Anwar.

He said in the video: “Personal views, pride, ego and self-importance have no place in one’s struggle, especially when it’s linked to religion, race and our country.”

“I am prepared to meet Anwar because I believe we have the same objectives. If I have to make the first gesture, I will do it,” added the former prime minister.

Subsequently, Mr Anwar told reporters at a fundraising event in Penang that this was not the time to “bring private (political) game plans to the table”.

“It is better for us to listen to the problems of the rakyat (people) and see how we can help them,” he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.

Talk of a political alliance between GTA and PN have also been denied by PN secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin.

“Officially, no (discussions) so far but there may be informal discussions between representatives. The party leadership has yet to decide whether discussions can be held officially,” Mr Hamzah was quoted as saying by Bernama.

Back in GE14, Mr Anwar, Mr Muhyiddin and Dr Mahathir worked together to capture Putrajaya under the PH umbrella. At that time, Dr Mahathir had promised to hand over power to Mr Anwar.

However, the PH administration collapsed 22 months later, due to infighting.


Analysts said that the three coalitions have been unable to make any headway in alliances due to irreconcilable differences between them.

Professor Ahmad Martadha Mohamed of Universiti Utara Malaysia told CNA that certain parties within the three coalitions are not ideologically aligned, and this will make it difficult to sign election pacts.

He cited how Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), a component party of PN, has said that it will not work alongside the Democratic Action Party (DAP) of PH.

Prof Ahmad Martadha added that PAS would also not be willing to work alongside Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), another PH component party, as the latter comprises former PAS politicians who had defected.

He added that PH and Mr Anwar would also be unwilling to partner Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), a component party of PN, due to the role played by the latter during the “Sheraton Move” which led to the toppling of the PH government in 2020.

Prof Ahmad Martadha added that the three coalitions will likely want their respective leaders – Mr Anwar, Mr Muhyiddin and Dr Mahathir – as prime minister candidates, and this would be a major stumbling block to forming any “formal alliances”.

“Looking ahead to nomination day (on Nov 5), there will be a lot of multi-cornered contests for this election – between BN, PH, PN and GTA. This seems unavoidable at the moment,” he added.

James Chin, who is a Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, argued that there was “no possibility” of the three coalitions and their leaders working together in time to avoid multi-cornered contests. He said that this is likely to benefit BN which has a strong grassroots presence and voter base.

“Obviously disunity and multi-cornered fights will benefit BN, (as) they have a strong group of core voters. If the opposition is divided into as many segments as possible, they will gain,” added the political analyst.

He recalled that these same dynamics happened in the recent Johor and Melaka state polls. In both instances, BN clinched comfortable two-third majorities in the state legislatures.

Ms Nia Astira Taufik, a voter from the Seremban constituency in Negeri Sembilan, told CNA that the divided coalitions have left her confused about who to vote for.

The 27-year-old said she does not support UMNO and BN, but is uncertain about which coalition or candidate she will cast her ballot for.

“There could be 4-5 candidates contesting and it’s very confusing who is representing what party,” she said.

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