Ethnic Voting in Malaysia

Results of the most recent Malaysian election.

In the summer of 2023, my colleague Liz McGuire and I will be taking a group of 20–25 students on a study abroad to Malaysia. This trip is of personal significance to me because I lived in Singapore and Malaysia during the 2007–2009 period. Though I spent much of my time there in more rural areas of East Malaysia (including Kuching and Miri in the state of Sarawak and Tawau in the state of Sabah), our study abroad will focus on the politics of ethnic Malays in peninsular Malaysia, including trips to the northeastern side of the peninsula in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

Liz and I will each work with half of the students. Liz’s students will focus on gender and politics; my students, on the other hand, will focus on ethnic voting by Malays. Malaysian politics has been in a state of flux since the 1MDB financial scandal that led to an unprecedented loss in 2018 by the former hegemonic political coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and the ethnic Malay party at the head of that coalition, United Malays National Organization (UMNO). With the traditional party structure in disarray for the last few years, the most recent elections (pictured above) resulted in a hung parliament, until longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was appointed Prime Minister. Changes in the voting patterns of Malays are in large part responsible for the shifting politics of the last few years. This context provides an interesting opportunity to explore the voting choices of ethnic Malays.

David Romney
David Romney
Assistant Professor

Studying ethnic politics and conspiracy theories in the MENA and SE Asia regions.