Malaysian Youth Party Defects From Ruling Coalition Over Corruption Cases

Recent Features

ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Malaysian Youth Party Defects From Ruling Coalition Over Corruption Cases

The defection has deprived Anwar Ibrahim’s government of its two-thirds parliamentary majority in Parliament.

Malaysian Youth Party Defects From Ruling Coalition Over Corruption Cases

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the leader of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), which yesterday dropped out of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s ruling coalition.

Credit: Facebook/Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) has dropped out of Malaysia’s ruling coalition in protest, after state prosecutors dropped a host of corruption charges against a key ally of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The youth-oriented party yesterday issued a statement saying it would join the opposition as a “third force,” BenarNews reported.

The move came after prosecutors last week dropped a host of corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the leader of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

“Who would have thought they would be this co-called reform government that would end up dropping corruption charges for the sake of power? I will not and will never allow Malaysia to normalize corruption,” MUDA’s leader Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, said in a video posted on Facebook.

While MUDA holds just a single seat in Parliament, its defection has denied Anwar a two-thirds majority that it needs for passing constitutional amendments and other key reforms.

Ahmad Zahid faced an astonishing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, bribery and money laundering, which relate to the alleged misuse of millions of dollars at a charity he founded to fight poverty. The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) filed the charges after UMNO and its Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was voted out of power for the first time in Malaysia’s history in 2018.

On September 4, the Kuala Lumpur High Court accepted a prosecution request to grant Ahmad Zahid a “discharge not amounting to an acquittal” after the AGC chose not to continue pursuing the case. Although the ruling fell short of a full acquittal, Ahmad Zahid has pledged to pursue a full exoneration.

In a statement yesterday, MUDA said that the abandonment of the case had raised questions about the government’s commitment to fight graft and uphold the rule of law.

“As a result of the decision, MUDA believes the legal institutions of the country have been tainted and it is as if the government is normalising the culture of corruption,” the statement read, as per Reuters.

MUDA’s defection speaks to the awkward compromises that have been forced on Anwar since taking office in November. The Malaysian leader was a staunch opponent of UMNO corruption during its long years in power prior to 2018, and developed a reputation as a primary advocate for Reformasi. However, shifting political alignments in Malaysian politics have placed him in a tricky position. After last November’s inconclusive general election, he was forced to join hands with UMNO in order to form a government and keep the conservative Perikatan Nasional coalition from office.

While Anwar has denied interfering with the work of the courts, the puzzling move by the state prosecutors was met with an outraged response on the progressive side of Malaysian politics. It is also unsurprising, as one observer noted yesterday, given MUDA’s frustrations with and criticisms of Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition, against which it has run candidates in various recent parliamentary contests.

Whether MUDA eventually emerges as a third force remains to be seen. The party has so far struggled to challenge established parties and gain purchase among young voters, in particular, to capitalize on the recent lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. That said, the party was founded only in 2020 and it is too soon to conclude that it cannot capitalize on the progressive disaffection with Anwar’s administration and establish itself as the heir of Reformasi.