Malaysian election call expected soon

Malaysian election call expected soon

Ruling party exec says PM will soon seek parliament dissolution, possibly after budget next week

Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves from a bus at the United Malays National Organisation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur after being nominated as prime minister in August 2021. (Bloomberg Photo)
Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves from a bus at the United Malays National Organisation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur after being nominated as prime minister in August 2021. (Bloomberg Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will soon meet with the king to get his consent to dissolve parliament, paving the way for a general election within this year, according to a ruling party official.

Top decision-makers in the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), including Ismail Sabri, met Friday evening and agreed that "Parliament must be dissolved soon to allow for the 15th general election”, Ahmad Maslan, the party's secretary general, said in a statement late Friday.

The move has been widely expected as Umno President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been stridently campaigning for it even though the term of Ismail Sabri's administration does not expire until June next year.

Local media had previously reported that Ismail Sabri, ranked third in the party as vice-president, preferred to wait until next year as he needed time to shore up his own position in the party.

Moreover, holding an election during the year-end flood-prone monsoon season could be disastrous.

But Umno, bolstered by its recent wins in two state polls, is confident of controlling parliament again.

Ismail Sabri, meanwhile, is trying to curry favour with the party’s base by ordering an investigation into possible misconduct by the former attorney general who brought corruption cases against top Umno members including former premier Najib Razak, who was jailed for helping to loot the state development fund.

Umno, which once held a tight grip on the government for over 60 years, was stunningly defeated in the May 2018 election by a rag-tag alliance led by former nonagenarian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir's administration, however, collapsed after barely two years due to political desertion.

Umno returned to power again in 2020 by joining forces with the defectors, but the marriage quickly turned cold as it resents sharing power with upstarts like Bersatu, Mahathir's former party.

Bersatu has the second-largest number of seats in the ruling coalition, after Umno. Mahathir was suspended from Bersatu after criticising the party for sleeping with the enemy.

Ahmad, in his statement, said, "Umno believes only by returning the rights to the people for a clear mandate would a stable government be formed."

As it currently stands, Ismail Sabri's grip on the government is precarious as his loose coalition only controls 113 seats in the lower house of the parliament out of a total of 222 seats.

Umno and Bersatu's public row over positions and other issues is also threatening the fragile alliance.

Now all eyes will be on the coming parliamentary session that will begin Monday. It has been speculated that the lower house will be dissolved shortly after the presentation of the 2023 budget on Friday.

Once parliament is dissolved, a general election must be called within 60 days, according to the constitution. The Elections Commission will decide the date, but political pundits speculate it would be around early November before the full brunt of the monsoon season hits.

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