Barisan Nasional unveils candidates for Malaysia election, drops several ministers
Incumbent Peramu Jaya assemblyman Mohamed Puzi Sheikh Ali has been fielded in Pekan, Pahang in place of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak who is seeking a royal pardon.
SINGAPORE: The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO)-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition on Tuesday evening (Nov 1) unveiled its list of 160 candidates who will contest in the peninsula during the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15).
BN’s 25 candidates for Sabah will be announced on Wednesday.
In announcing the candidates at UMNO headquarters, party president and BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that 85 per cent of BN’s candidates have academic qualifications at the higher education level.
“The featured candidates are a mix of new and old faces. They have the strength of a record of serving the people and the freshness of ideas, as well as a healthy point of view for the stability and prosperity of the country,” he said at a BN event in Kuala Lumpur.
New faces include senator and caretaker finance minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (Kuala Selangor), UMNO supreme council member Hizatul Isham Abdul Jalil (Shah Alam), and UMNO information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan (Alor Gajah).
BN’s candidates in the peninsula comprise 103 from UMNO, 43 from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and 10 from the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). The list also included four candidates from parties considered as Friends of BN.
Ahmad Zahid did not name candidates for several constituencies, without giving reasons.
These include the seat of Tanjung Karang in Selangor, held by UMNO member and caretaker entrepreneur development and cooperatives minister Noh Haji Omar, as well as Tumpat in Kelantan, held by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia’s Che Abdullah Mat Nawi.
MIC leaders were not present at the event, with local media reports saying that they will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the party’s future amid a supposed disagreement with UMNO over the number of seats allocated.
Ahmad Zahid will defend his Bagan Datuk seat in Perak, where he has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1995.
He will face Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, who was moved from the Hang Tuah Jaya seat in Melaka and has said that he hopes to maintain his “giant killer” reputation.
Caretaker prime minister and UMNO vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob will defend his seat in Bera, Pahang, which he won at the 2018 election against a PKR candidate with a slim 2,311 vote majority.
Ahmad Zahid had stated on Oct 16 that the decision to nominate Mr Ismail Sabri as BN’s candidate for prime minister, should the coalition win GE15, was final.
UMNO’s Sheikh Mohamed Puzi Sheikh Ali, the incumbent Peramu Jaya assemblyman, will run in Pekan, Pahang, taking over jailed former prime minister Najib Razak. There were earlier rumours that Najib’s eldest son Mohd Nizar Najib would contest the seat.
Najib, who is seeking a royal pardon, will not be allowed to campaign while serving a 12-year sentence for a corruption case involving a former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) unit, SRC International.
Caretaker health minister Khairy Jamaluddin will run in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, after the former Rembau MP said he was almost certain to be given a seat which is held by the opposition.
PKR candidate R Sivarasa, part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, captured the newly-created Sungai Buloh constituency in 2018. But he has since been dropped by PKR. Mr Khairy will instead go up against PH’s Ramanan Ramakrishnan, a former MIC treasurer-general.
Missing from the list of candidates are at least four caretaker ministers in Mr Ismail Sabri’s Cabinet, who were dropped just days before nomination day on this Saturday. Polling will take place on Nov 19.
These include caretaker federal territories minister and Arau MP Shahidan Kassim and caretaker communications and multimedia minister and Ketereh MP Annuar Musa.
Earlier, Malaysian media reports had cited sources as saying that both Mr Shahidan and Mr Annuar were skeptical of Ahmad Zahid's leadership.
Also missing from the candidates list are caretaker national unity minister and Kota Tinggi MP Halimah Mohamed Sadique, as well as caretaker science, technology and innovation minister and Tenggara MP Adham Baba.
SEEKING A NEW MANDATE
During GE14 in 2018, BN only won 79 seats and was defeated after 60 years in power, as voters chafed at allegations of graft against senior figures.
The opposition PH coalition and its ally Parti Warisan cumulatively secured 121 seats, winning a simple majority out of 222 seats to form the government.
Then-chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in his capacity as leader of the PH coalition, was sworn in for the second time as prime minister.
But infighting over who would succeed Dr Mahathir and a political manoeuvre dubbed the “Sheraton Move” saw the collapse of the PH government less than two years later, replaced by a new Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition led by Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin.
After months of political bickering within the PN government - which included BN component parties - and criticism of how the government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Muhyiddin finally resigned in August 2021.
Mr Muhyiddin’s departure saw the return of BN to the apex of power with the appointment of Mr Ismail Sabri as the third prime minister in the last two years.
Ahead of this year’s election, BN has said it is targeting to win at least 112 seats to be the dominant party in government. But Mr Ismail Sabri has said that BN can no longer field any candidate and expect an easy win due to the changing political situation.
An election had not been due until September 2023, but Mr Ismail Sabri faced pressure from some factions of his ruling coalition, including Ahmad Zahid, to hold the vote earlier.
Ahmad Zahid, who is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering over the use of funds in a charity foundation linked to him, had been very vocal in pushing for snap polls, ostensibly to seek a fresh mandate from the people.
While Ahmad Zahid and UMNO have repeatedly named Mr Ismail Sabri as their choice for prime minister should they win, observers have not ruled out that Ahmad Zahid is gunning for the top post himself.
Malaysian media, quoting sources, have reported that Ahmad Zahid could purge the party of those who have spoken out against him and shown support for Mr Ismail Sabri as candidate for prime minister.
On Tuesday, Ahmad Zahid denied local news reports that said he asked candidates for the election to back him as prime minister.