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GE14 in East Malaysia: MA63 and marching to a different drum

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 02:53 authored by James ChinJames Chin

While most scholars argued that 1MDB, Najib and kleptocracy, and the reputation of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were key factors in the historical defeat of UMNO and the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 2018 general elections, a key part of the shock election outcome has received scant attention: Sabah and Sarawak. If there is one single issue in East Malaysia that rallied the polity, it is the issue of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63) and the rise of state nationalism. In this chapter, I seek to explain how the MA63 issue became the mainstay of political debate and was the source of historical grievances and the political upheavals caused by the 2018 GE.

In Sabah, the opposition led by the combined Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan or Sabah Heritage Party) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) won the parliamentary elections convincingly when it took 15 of 25 seats. At the state level, the Warisan-PH alliance won 29 of 60 seats. These are outstanding results for a two-year-old party. In Sarawak, the opposition managed to win 12 of the state’s 31 parliamentary seats. (There was no state election, as Sarawak holds their state elections separately.) In the 2013 general elections, the opposition only managed to win 3 parliamentary seats in Sabah and 6 in Sarawak. The opposition thus made major inroads in East Malaysia this round. They managed to replace the Barisan-led state government in Sabah, while laying the foundations for a real challenge to the incumbent in Sarawak when the next state election, due in 2021, comes around. In both Sabah and Sarawak, state nationalism, autonomy and MA63 were key themes used by all sides.


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Southeast Asian Affairs








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