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By Mei Mei Chu

Factbox-How Malaysia's election system works

Election workers wear gloves as they make a final preparation at a polling station during Malaysia's 15th general election, in Bera, Pahang, Malaysia November 19, 2022. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Malaysians vote on Saturday in a closely fought election, with polls predicting a hung parliament as no party or coalition can get the lower house majority needed to form a government.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is forecast in the lead, though coalitions led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and former premier Muhyiddin Yassin could deny him the majority.

Here is a breakdown of how Malaysian elections work:


Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in which the king plays a largely ceremonial role, although he has certain discretionary powers.

The general election is held every five years unless the prime minister calls for an early poll.

The election process is "first past the post", meaning the party or coalition that wins 112 of the 222 seats in the lower house can form a government.

In a hung parliament, with no party or coalition winning a majority, rival blocs would need to form new alliances to secure enough seats.

The Election Commission typically declares the results on the day of the election and the prime minister is sworn in the next day. But given the close race this time, it is unclear how quickly a new government will be formed.


Over 21 million Malaysians are eligible to vote in this election, including 6 million new voters.

About 1.4 million Malaysians aged 18 to 20 are expected to vote for the first time after the government lowered the minimum age to 18 from 21 last year.

Malaysia's turnout fluctuates. In the last polls in 2018, 82.3% out of eligible voters cast their ballots - one of the highest in Malaysia's history.

A high turnout typically tends to favour the opposition, while a lower participation favours the incumbent.


No party has ever formed a government on its own, and the multiethnic makeup of Malaysian society has a major influence on the composition of coalitions.

There are three main coalitions vying for power, unlike earlier elections when there were two.

Incumbent Ismail's Barisan Nasional is led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), a Malay nationalist party that prioritises the interests of the ethnic-Malay majority.

The alliance, which includes smaller parties representing ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities, governed Malaysia for six decades before it was toppled by the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance in the 2018 polls due to widespread allegations of corruption.

But UMNO returned to power in 2020 as part of another alliance after the opposition coalition collapsed.

The second main coalition is the multiethnic Pakatan Harapan led by Anwar Ibrahim. It won the 2018 election under the leadership of former premier Mahathir Mohamad but lost power two years later due to infighting.

Former premier Muhyiddin Yassin leads the third alliance, which includes a Malay nationalist party and an Islamist party that has touted sharia law.

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by A. Ananthalakshmi, Simon Cameron-Moore and William Mallard)

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