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Malaysia heads for early election after PM Ismail Sabri dissolves parliament

The dissolution paves the way for Malaysia's 15th general election to be held this year.

Malaysia heads for early election after PM Ismail Sabri dissolves parliament
In this photo released by Malaysia's Department of Information, Malaysia's Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz, center left, delivers the 2023 budget speech at parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo: Famer Roheni/Malaysia Department of Information via AP)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Monday (Oct 10) that parliament has been dissolved, paving the way for national elections to be held before the end of the year.

Speaking during a televised national address at 3pm, Mr Ismail Sabri said he sought consent from the king at noon on Sunday to dissolve parliament and his request was accepted. 

"I encourage all state governments, except the governments of Sabah, Sarawak, Johor and Melaka to dissolve their respective state assemblies at the same date as the General Election at the federal level, even though some states have decided not to dissolve" he said. 

"It is preferable for (both state and national polls) to be held at the same time so that the people are not burdened, and to ensure that the process of democracy runs smoothly and costs are reduced," added Mr Ismail Sabri. 

An election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament, which means the upcoming vote should be held by Dec 9.

The prime minister said that the stipulated dates for nomination day, polling day and other related matters will be determined by the Election Commission. 

"With this announcement, the mandate is returned to the people," he said. 

"The people's mandate is a powerful antidote for the country to achieve political stability and create a strong, stable and respected government after GE15."

In a statement shortly after Mr Ismail Sabri’s announcement on Monday, the national palace said that Malaysia's king did not have a choice but to agree to the prime minister's request to dissolve parliament. 

Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said that the ruler was disappointed with the current political developments in the country.

“The king expressed his disappointment in the current political developments of the country and had no choice but to consent to the prime minister’s request to return the mandate back to the people for a stable government,” he said.

Mr Ahmad Fadil also said that the king hoped that the Election Commission will hold an election soonest, taking into account the northeast monsoon season that is expected to begin in mid-November.

There has been intense speculation about the dissolution of parliament to pave the way for the 15th general election (GE15).

Last Friday, Mr Ismail Sabri’s government unveiled a budget of RM372.3 billion (US$80.06 billion) for 2023 amid an uncertain global environment and expected slow growth. It is one of the largest budgets in Malaysia's history.

An election is not due until September 2023, but Mr Ismail Sabri has been under pressure from some factions of his ruling coalition to hold the vote earlier.

On Sep 30, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) supreme council decided that parliament must be dissolved soon so that GE15 can be held this year.

UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering, has been very vocal in pushing for snap polls, ostensibly to seek a fresh mandate from the people.

UMNO’s call for an early GE15 has been criticised by the opposition and Mr Ismail Sabri’s own Cabinet members as Malaysia’s Meteorological Department has warned of floods during the north-east monsoon season, which typically starts in November and ends in March.

The presidential council of the main opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan (PH) said in a statement last Wednesday that the three states controlled by the coalition - Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang - will only dissolve their state assemblies next year due to concerns over floods. 

State assemblies led by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) - Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah - will also not be dissolved if a general election is held soon, said party deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man last Wednesday, according to a report by Free Malaysia Today.

Perikatan Nasional (PN) Cabinet ministers sent a letter to the king to voice their objections over holding GE15 this year, Mr Tuan Ibrahim said then.

PN, which comprises Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS, is a component of the ruling coalition together with UMNO-led Barisan Nasional.

In response to concerns about holding GE15 during floods, UMNO’s Ahmad Zahid had criticised the opposition for using the floods and inflation narrative to resist an early general election, labelling the flood narrative as a “myth”.

Despite the statements, some opposition states are likely to follow suit and dissolve their state assemblies “in the coming days”, said Mr Adib Zalkapli, a director at strategic advisory firm BowerGroupAsia, as he believes it will be challenging to get voters to go to the poll twice.

“Given the challenges Pakatan Harapan has been facing in getting their voters to come out at the recent state elections… I think it's one thing to push the narrative that general elections should not be held (so close to the monsoon season), but it is even more challenging for PH to get their supporters to come out twice to vote in the general federal election and also at the state election,” Mr Adib told CNA’s Asia Now.

“Common sense will prevail in the coming days,” he added.

Source: CNA/Agences/ya(ih)
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