Malaysia likely to hold elections as early as this year

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Malaysia’s next general elections, initially due not before August 2018, could be held as early as in September or October this year, rumours emerged at the 71st-anniversary  rally of the country’s largest party, right-wing United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which also holds the majority of seats in the leading coalition Barisan Nasional.

At the event held on May 11, UMNO leader and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for party members and supporters to be prepared for polls, one of the strongest signs yet that he may call early elections to seek a new mandate as he keeps bouncing off public criticism over his involvement in the 1MDB financial scandal.

“Are we strong enough? Are we ready? Can we dissolve parliament tomorrow?” he asked as 120,000-strong crowd at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

“All of you have gathered here as a symbol that our party is the strongest party on Malaysian soil,” he added.

But despite strong internal support, Najib’s victory in the next polls is not necessarily cut an dried.

Although he is widely expected to win, he has little room for maneuver. Support for UMNO-led Barisan Nasional has been fading in recent years, and the coalition just won narrowly in the 2013 elections.

If his majority was further eroded, Najib could also face an internal leadership challenge, which is why he started to purge dissenters and crack down on civil rights and the media in a quest to consolidate power. But he can hardly thwart attacks by his former mentor-turned-critic, ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who runs a sturdy campaign to oust him.

“The party needs to show it’s still dominant at grassroots level,” Wan Saiful Wan Jan, a visiting senior fellow at Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies-Yusof Ishak Institute, told The Straits Times, adding that this seems to be the reason that this year’s UMNO festivities are being held on an unusual large scale.

UMNO’s main opposition are the center-left Pakatan Harapan, or Hope’s Party – a coalition consisting of Democratic Action Party, People’s Justice Party, National Trust Party and Malaysian United Indigenous Party – as well as the Malaysian Islamic Party.

 

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Malaysia's next general elections, initially due not before August 2018, could be held as early as in September or October this year, rumours emerged at the 71st-anniversary  rally of the country's largest party, right-wing United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which also holds the majority of seats in the leading coalition Barisan Nasional. At the event held on May 11, UMNO leader and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for party members and supporters to be prepared for polls, one of the strongest signs yet that he may call early elections to seek a new mandate as he keeps bouncing off...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Malaysia’s next general elections, initially due not before August 2018, could be held as early as in September or October this year, rumours emerged at the 71st-anniversary  rally of the country’s largest party, right-wing United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which also holds the majority of seats in the leading coalition Barisan Nasional.

At the event held on May 11, UMNO leader and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for party members and supporters to be prepared for polls, one of the strongest signs yet that he may call early elections to seek a new mandate as he keeps bouncing off public criticism over his involvement in the 1MDB financial scandal.

“Are we strong enough? Are we ready? Can we dissolve parliament tomorrow?” he asked as 120,000-strong crowd at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

“All of you have gathered here as a symbol that our party is the strongest party on Malaysian soil,” he added.

But despite strong internal support, Najib’s victory in the next polls is not necessarily cut an dried.

Although he is widely expected to win, he has little room for maneuver. Support for UMNO-led Barisan Nasional has been fading in recent years, and the coalition just won narrowly in the 2013 elections.

If his majority was further eroded, Najib could also face an internal leadership challenge, which is why he started to purge dissenters and crack down on civil rights and the media in a quest to consolidate power. But he can hardly thwart attacks by his former mentor-turned-critic, ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who runs a sturdy campaign to oust him.

“The party needs to show it’s still dominant at grassroots level,” Wan Saiful Wan Jan, a visiting senior fellow at Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies-Yusof Ishak Institute, told The Straits Times, adding that this seems to be the reason that this year’s UMNO festivities are being held on an unusual large scale.

UMNO’s main opposition are the center-left Pakatan Harapan, or Hope’s Party – a coalition consisting of Democratic Action Party, People’s Justice Party, National Trust Party and Malaysian United Indigenous Party – as well as the Malaysian Islamic Party.

 

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