Malaysian state poll tests ruling alliance as allies split

Nov 18, 2021, 11:06 PM | Updated: 11:15 pm

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian southern state will hold elections Saturday in a test for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ethnic Malay party as it faces off against allies in the government for the first time amid a widening rift.

While the outcome of the Malacca state poll will not affect the federal administration, analysts said it could deepen tensions between the two key Malay parties in the national government and shape how alliances are formed in the next general election.

The Malacca election will see a three-way fight between a camp led by Ismail’s United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, another by ally parties Bersatu and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, and the opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim.

UMNO and Bersatu, the two biggest parties in the ruling alliance, are at loggerheads but have agreed to share power until the next national polls, which are not due until 2023 but are widely expected to be called next year.

“The state elections pit allies at the national level against each other. The outcome could put pressure on the national governing alliance and have a spillover effect on other state governments,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert at Malaysia’s Nottingham University.

The Malacca polls were called after the UMNO-led state government collapsed when four assemblymen pulled their support. A victory would be a boost for UMNO, which had led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957 but was ousted in 2018 elections by Anwar’s reformist alliance amid a multibillion-dollar financial scandal.

Anwar’s alliance, however, crumbled last year after Muhyiddin Yassin withdrew his Bersatu party and formed a new government with UMNO, PAS and several other parties. But Muhyiddin was forced to resign in August after infighting cost him majority support.

Ismail, who was Muhyiddin’s deputy, then took office, bringing back UMNO’s rule.

Ismail has kept a low-profile in the Malacca polls as he sought to maintain an uneasy truce between the feuding camps in his alliance. UMNO’s campaign is led by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who remains influential despite a conviction and 12-year jail sentence last year for corruption. He is appealing his conviction and also faces several other graft trials.

Campaigning in Malacca, which is around a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, has so far been lackluster amid strict rules as the country emerged from a virus lockdown last month after a successful vaccination roll-out.

Blue and red flags, posters and buntings of the contesting parties are the only visible signs of the election, which will see 112 candidates fighting for 28 seats in the state assembly. Political rallies, walkabouts and house visits are banned, taking the campaigning into social media and making results more unpredictable.

Nearly half a million voters will cast ballots from 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) until 5 p.m. (0900 GMT).

Most observers believe the main fight is between UMNO and Anwar’s opposition alliance. Bersatu lacks grassroot strength and is likely to take on a “spoiler role” by splitting votes among ethnic Malays and reducing the majority for either side, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

A big win for UMNO could potentially lead to challenges in ruling party states that are helmed by Bersatu, both Welsh and Oh said. It could also accelerate plans to call for early general elections and may prompt PAS and other parties supporting Bersatu to review their alliance, Oh said.

The polls come as Malaysia gradually reopens its borders to vaccinated travelers. The country has vaccinated more than 76% of its population, including most adults. Daily infections have dropped dramatically to around 6,000 from its peak of more than 20,000 in August. The country has recorded 2.56 million cases and nearly 30,000 deaths.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the C...
Associated Press

Manchin ends pipeline push, easing path for spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has abandoned, for now, his push to speed up the permitting process for energy projects, easing the Senate’s path toward passing a stopgap spending bill that would keep the federal government running when the fiscal year ends at midnight Friday. A procedural vote Tuesday advancing the funding bill […]
20 hours ago
A family walks through the rain in search of shelter after their home flooded when Hurricane Ian hi...
Associated Press

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it slammed into the island’s western tip as a major hurricane Tuesday. Cuba’s Electric Union said in a statement that work was underway to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million […]
20 hours ago
President Joe Biden waits for members of the press to leave after speaking at a meeting of the Whit...
Associated Press

Libertarian group sues to block student debt cancellation

A libertarian group in California filed a legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s plan for student debt cancellation on Tuesday, calling it an illegal overreach that would increase state tax burdens for some Americans who get their debt forgiven. The lawsuit, believed to be the first targeting Biden’s plan, was filed by the Pacific Legal […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

UN official warns of conflict, more poverty in Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A senior U.N. official warned Tuesday of a possible internal conflict and worsening poverty in Afghanistan if the Taliban don’t respond quickly to the needs of all elements of society, saying their crackdown on the rights of girls and women signals indifference to over 50% of Afghanistan’s population and a willingness […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Hawaii fines US Navy for unauthorized sewage release

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Health said Tuesday it has fined the U.S. Navy $8.8 million for repeatedly discharging untreated or partially treated sewage into state waters from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The department said in a news release that it recorded 766 counts of the Navy discharging pollutants in excess of limits […]
20 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Malaysian state poll tests ruling alliance as allies split