Malaysia’s 14th General Election (GE14) – The Contest for the Malay Electorate

John Funston


The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its allies in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, known as the Alliance until 1974, dominated Malaysian elections for more than six decades. UMNO’s winning formula was based on massive support for the politically dominant Malay community, and mobilising government institutions in support of the party. This was undermined towards the end of the 1990s by UMNO disunity, a strengthened civil society, and arrival of a digital media. Demands for comprehensive political and economic reforms (reformasi) emerged following the controversial sacking of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. UMNO had its worst result ever in the 1999 election, a trend that continued in 2008 and 2013 when BN lost its popular and two-thirds majority. Najib’s attempt to reverse this by strengthening the call for Malay dominance and tightening coercion failed. His deep implication in multiple corruption cases, tactical campaign errors, and a united opposition, Pakatan Harapan, led to the BN’s stunning defeat.

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