10/11/2022, 17.01
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Malaysians heading to the polls

by Steve Suwannarat

Yesterday, Prime Minister Yaakub had the king dissolve parliament. The ruling UMNO party is trying to capitalise on a favourable moment to boost its narrow majority. The economic crisis remains the issue to tackle as Malaysian face uncertainty amid rising prices.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakub asked King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah to dissolve parliament yesterday, a day later than expected. Malaysian will thus go to the polls in December rather than September 2023. This will be the third election since 2018.

While accepting the request, the monarch expressed dissatisfaction with recent political developments. As he noted, in addition to political climate and economic difficulties, the vote will be affected by seasonal monsoons.

On 7 September, the government unveiled its budget proposal of US$ 80.06 billion, one of the largest since independence, which was approved amid great uncertainty and potentially lower  economic growth.

On 30 September, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in the ruling coalition, decided to hold an election a year early.

In the May 2018 election, the party lost power for the first time in 60 years since independence, but in 20 August 2021 king picked UMNO Vice President Ismail Sabri Yaakub to be prime minister.

For his part, the party’s president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is trying to take advantage of  a favourable moment even though he faces 47 counts of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust in connection with the 1 Billion fund scandal.

In the latter, former Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and money laundering; however, the election might change his fate with a possible royal pardon, as requested by many.

As well as political matters, economic issues will likely dominate the coming campaign. While this year’s growth should be between 6.5 per cent and 7 per cent, it is expected to drop by at least 2 percentage points next year.

Inflation and corruption as well as interethnic relations are other major issues. For UMNO, anti-minority nationalism and favouritism for Muslims are also part of its agenda.

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