Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s prime minister since November 2022, faces a formidable challenge from the “Green Wave”, a term coined to describe the surge of support for the Islamist party PAS and its allies in the recent state elections. PAS, which advocates for the implementation of Islamic law and the preservation of Malay-Muslim supremacy, won a landslide victory in Kelantan and Terengganu, and made significant gains in Kedah, Perlis, and Pahang. PAS also formed a coalition with Bersatu, a splinter party from Anwar’s own PKR, and secured the chief minister’s post in Perak.
The “Green Wave” poses a threat to Anwar’s ruling coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), which consists of PKR, DAP, Amanah, and Warisan. PH, which came to power in 2018 by ousting the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) led by UMNO, has struggled to deliver on its reform agenda and to balance the demands of its diverse constituents. PH has also faced internal divisions and defections, as well as external pressure and interference from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned in 2020 and formed a new party, Pejuang.
The “Green Wave” could undermine PH’s support base, especially among the Malay-Muslim majority, who make up about 60% of the population. PAS and Bersatu have accused PH of being too secular, liberal, and pro-Chinese, and of neglecting the rights and interests of the Malays and Islam. PAS and Bersatu have also appealed to the rural and conservative voters, who are dissatisfied with the economic and social conditions under PH. PAS and Bersatu have also capitalized on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Malaysia hard, by portraying themselves as more competent and compassionate in handling the crisis.
Anwar has tried to counter the “Green Wave” by adopting a moderate and inclusive approach to governance, while also defending the principles and values of PH. Anwar has reiterated his commitment to uphold the constitution, the rule of law, and the federal system, and to respect the diversity and pluralism of Malaysia. Anwar has also emphasized his vision of a “New Malaysia”, which is based on justice, democracy, and human rights, and which aims to create a prosperous, harmonious, and progressive society.
Anwar has also sought to strengthen his coalition and to expand his outreach to other parties and groups. Anwar has maintained a cordial and constructive relationship with his coalition partners, especially DAP, the largest Chinese-based party, and Amanah, a moderate Islamic party. Anwar has also engaged with BN, the main opposition bloc, and GPS, the ruling coalition in Sarawak, on issues of national interest and importance. Anwar has also reached out to civil society, the media, the academia, and the youth, to solicit their views and feedback, and to mobilize their support.