The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 9, No 3 (2021)

Spontaneous humour and Malaysia’s democratic breakthrough in 2018

Shanon Shah


The 2018 Malaysian general election was the first democratic change of government in the nation’s modern history. The victory of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope – PH) coalition surprised several observers within and outside the country, especially considering the intensified repression employed by the outgoing Barisan Nasional (National Front – BN) ruling coalition leading up to the polls, including media censorship, the silencing of political opponents, and the manipulation of Islamism and ethnic Malay nationalism. This article examines the role of spontaneous, conversational humour in constructing a viable political identity for the PH. It does this by considering humorous moments during press conferences and similar media events held by the PH coalition, led by its designated choice for prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. This article aims to contribute to the scholarship on the role of humour in identity construction and political campaigning.


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