Malaysia’s nationalist bloc moves closer to forming government

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysia’s next government appeared to be turning to the religious right as a coalition of Malay nationalists won the support of an influential bloc on Sunday after hard-fought general elections failed to produce a clear winner. The king of the nation has yet to approve any deal.

The unprecedented deadlock in parliament following Saturday’s contentious polls saw the rise of the Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. It has stunned many Malaysians who had hoped for stability and unity after the political turmoil that has seen three prime ministers since the 2018 polls.

Muhyiddin’s alliance was an underdog, enjoying an unexpected vote boost with 73 seats out of 222. Its stubborn ally is the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party, the biggest winner with 49 seats — more than double the number in 2018. Known as the PAS, it promotes Sharia law, rules three states and is now the largest single party. His rise has fueled fears of greater Islamization in the country.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s reformist multi-ethnic alliance led the race with 82 federal seats, but fell well short of the 112 required for a majority.