Political Dynasties in Malaysia

Murray Hunter

The recent appointment of Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar as economic advisor to her father as prime minister has tapped into deep emotion and even ridicule this week.

Some are saying Nurul is not qualified. Others are claiming nepotism, while a few are arguing she is a loser in the last general election and shouldn’t have any job.

Political dynasties have been common in Malaysia, starting with royalty itself. Madrasas and Islamic school tradition has seen these small institutions pass on from father to son over countless generations. Even businesses have dynasties, where the reigns of management are passed on from father to children.

Nurul’s appointment has led to similar ridicule that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi received, when he appointed his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin as an advisor. He became the leader of a group known as “the fourth floor boys’, who copped the blame for everything that went wrong in Badawi’s administration.

Mahathir Mohamad nurtured his son Mukhriz Mahathir, who has suffered politically as a consequence to Mahathir’s ‘crash through, or crash’ style of politics. This dynasty has stalled, where Mukhriz appears to be drifting in the wilderness, without any party grouping willing to associate with him.

There is also very little outrage over the wealth gained by Mahathir’s children over the last two decades.

Tun Razak Hussein’s son Najib Razak was prime minister for nine years, before Mahathir defeated him in the 2018 general election.

Onn Jaafar, who organized opposition to the formation of the Malayan Union, and served as chief minister in Johor before Merdeka, was followed by his son Hussein Onn, who went on to become prime minister. Hussein Onn’s son Hishammuddin Hussein had a long stint as a senior minister, but is now suspended from UMNO for six years.

On the opposition side of politics, Lim Kit Siang, co-founder and long-time leader of the DAP is the father of Lim Guan Eng who served as chief minister of Penang and finance minister in the Pakatan Harapan government, led by Mahathir.