Opposition calls off plans for snap polls in Penang

No-go after failing to get coalition partner PKR's nod, says DAP leader Lim Guan Eng

Malaysia's opposition has called off plans for a snap election in Penang which have caused a rift in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance, announced Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is facing corruption charges.

Mr Lim, secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) which controls the state, told a press conference yesterday that it dropped the idea after failing to gain coalition partner Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) consent after two weeks of discussions.

"DAP upholds the collective consultative process. Despite being unfairly criticised, we will keep our word and display trustworthiness as a basis towards forging a strong coalition in Pakatan," he said.

The decision to abandon the Penang vote heads off the threat of further fractures in the opposition, as ties with former ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and smaller parties such as the Socialist Party of Malaysia continue to be fraught with disagreements.

Plans to dissolve the state assembly where PH holds an overwhelming majority were mooted after Mr Lim was arrested and charged with corruption in June over last year's purchase of his home.

DAP'S STAND

DAP upholds the collective consultative process. Despite being unfairly criticised, we will keep our word and display trustworthiness as a basis towards forging a strong coalition in Pakatan.

MR LIM GUAN ENG, secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party, who said that plans for a snap election were called off after the party failed to gain the consent of coalition partner Parti Keadilan Rakyat after two weeks of discussions.

He is alleged to have abused his position in rezoning land belonging to a company co-owned by the seller of the house, which he bought at below market price.

DAP said holding the polls two years early would allow the public to pass judgment on Mr Lim's leadership and endorse a clean opposition-led state government.

Islamic party Parti Amanah Negara had agreed to the plan, but it is the only PH member with no representation in the Penang legislative assembly. DAP holds 19 while PKR has 10 of the 40 seats in the state assembly.

PKR has repeatedly said it was "not convinced" of the need to hold the elections. The Straits Times understands the party is concerned about losing in areas with a significant Muslim Malay electorate, as the Chinese-dominated DAP and multi-ethnic PKR have been constantly attacked by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition over being un-Islamic.

A top PH source told The Straits Times that DAP leaders had even met PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim - who is currently in jail over a controversial sodomy conviction - on the sidelines of a court case last week and convinced him that the state ballot would re-energise the public against the BN, amid a global spotlight over allegations of fraud in 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the state fund whose advisory board was led by Prime Minister Najib Razak until May this year.

"But when PKR's leadership met, those against the polls argued again that DAP's government in Penang had made it difficult for PKR to face voters at this point," the source said, adding that this left DAP with no further avenue to lobby for the elections.

Penang BN chief Teng Chang Yeow yesterday suggested holding a "confidence vote" in the state legislative assembly so lawmakers can decide whether they want to keep Mr Lim as Chief Minister.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Opposition calls off plans for snap polls in Penang'. Print Edition | Subscribe