Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Malay party on Saturday won a landslide victory in a state election, defeating its allies in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition ahead of national polls.
The victory in southern Malacca state by Ismail’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was seen as a bellwether that could shape alliances in national elections following a period of political turmoil. The elections are not due until 2023, but are widely expected to be called next year.
UMNO had led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, but was ousted in 2018 elections by opposition leader Ibrahim Anwar’s reformist alliance following a multibillion-dollar financial scandal that led to the corruption conviction of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
Anwar’s alliance crumbled last year after Muhyiddin Yassin withdrew his Bersatu party and formed a new government with UMNO, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and several others. Muhyiddin was forced to resign in August due to infighting, and Ismail, who was Muhyiddin’s deputy, took office, bringing back UMNO’s rule.
UMNO and Bersatu, the two biggest parties in the ruling alliance, are at loggerheads, but have agreed to share power until the next general election. Both parties are vying for the support of ethnic Malays, who account for two-thirds of Malaysia’s 31 million people.
The Election Commission said the UMNO-led National Front coalition secured 21 of the 28 state assembly seats, Anwar’s opposition won five and Bersatu two.
“Voters returned to the UMNO/National Front fold as this coalition is associated with greater financial security at a time of insecurity” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert with University of Nottingham Malaysia.
She said it was also a major defeat for the opposition and showed that voters rejected Anwar’s leadership.
UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also on trial for corruption, said the people of Malacca sent a clear signal that they wanted “stability and prosperity.”
Opposition politicians blamed a low voter turnout of 66 percent for their loss.
Analysts have said that a big win for UMNO could potentially lead to challenges in ruling party states that are led by Bersatu, accelerate plans for early general elections and might prompt the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and others supporting Bersatu to review their alliance.
Campaigning in Malacca, which is about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, was muted amid strict rules as the country emerged from a COVID-19 lockdown last month after a successful vaccination rollout. Political rallies and house visits were banned, taking the campaigning to social media.
The polls were held as Malaysia gradually reopens its borders to vaccinated travelers. The country has vaccinated more than 76 percent of its population, including most adults.
Daily infections have dropped dramatically to about 6,000 from its peak of more than 20,000 in August.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
‘ZERO’ STRATEGY: Carrie Lam said the airline faced a probe over its compliance with the rules after an outbreak was traced to air crew who breached quarantine Cathay Pacific is being investigated and faces possible legal action over an outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong that began with the airline’s employees, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The revelation came as Lam announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year early next month. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a “zero COVID” strategy that has largely cut the international finance hub off from the mainland and the rest of the world for the past two years. A recent outbreak traced to Cathay Pacific air crew who breached home quarantine has sparked
PORT CONGESTION: Ships heading for Omicron-affected Dalian and Tianjin are being redirected to Shanghai, which does not have the capacity for the sudden cargo influx China has detected the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a second major port city, deepening concern that the vastly more infectious variant could spread quickly across the world’s largest trading nation, upending global supply chains. Chinese officials said yesterday that at least one person has Omicron in Dalian, a city of 7 million. A second person also tested positive for the virus, but the variant is unknown. Both are college students who returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday from Tianjin, where at least 137 other cases were traced as of Wednesday. Dalian joins Tianjin as the second crucial port city
Japan extended measures barring almost all new foreign arrivals until the end of next month and is to reopen mass vaccination centers as it battles an surge of COVID-19 cases, the government said yesterday. “We will keep the current border control policy until the end of February while taking necessary measures from a humanitarian viewpoint and considering the national interest,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. Local media said that there would be some new exemptions for members of Japanese families as well as students studying in Japan, but there were no immediate details from officials. The government is also to reopen