6 opposition-held Malaysian states to sit out if polls held this year

Currently, PAS has 17 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, while PKR has 36 and DAP 42. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Six opposition-held states are not likely to go along and dissolve their assemblies if the next general election were held this year, opposition leaders say.

The states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah which are controlled by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) will not be dissolved before March 2023, the party's secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said. PAS is a member of the opposition alliance Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Meanwhile, three states held by the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance - Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan - are also set to hold off on state polls if the general election if it is called this year as widely speculated.

The move by PN and PH could forestall any potential plan by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for national polls soon after the Budget is presented on Oct 7.

Datuk Seri Ismail is under intense pressure from his party Umno to quickly dissolve Parliament and call for polls, as Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) is worried about more damaging issues surfacing in coming months.

Umno is reeling from the recent jailing of its ex-president Najib Razak and a RM9 billion (S$2.8 billion) scandal involving six uncompleted Navy warships.

The general election must be held by September next year - more than a year away.

Holding federal and state elections separately would be costly for the government. De-facto Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Parliament in March that the Election Commission’s expenditures for the state polls were RM130 million in Sabah, RM45 million in Melaka and RM149 million in Sarawak.

Holding separate federal and state polls could also add to Malaysia' current political mess with myriad parties and politicians jockeying for positions, despite voter anger over the post-Covid weak economy and high inflation.

With Sabah, Sarawak, Melaka and Johor having held their elections within the past two years, a total of 10 states of Malaysia's 13 state aren't likely to feature in GE15.

If the six opposition states do not dissolve their legislative assemblies, only three states controlled by BN - Perlis, Perak and Pahang - will go to the polls along with the federal elections.

Under Malaysia's separation of federal and state powers, the prime minister will advise the king on when to dissolve the federal Parliament.

But leaders (chief ministers) of the 11 Malaysia states, along with Sabah and Sarawak, will separately advise their respective state rulers (sultans and governors) on when to dissolve the State Assemblies.

At a typical polling centre in Malaysia, a voter would be handed out two ballot papers: one to vote for his Member of Parliament and the other to pick a State Assemblyman.

A parliamentary ward contains between two and five state constituencies. There are 222 seats in the federal Parliament and 576 seats in the 13 state assemblies.

In the past, only Sarawak regularly held their state elections separately from the general election.

But messy political infighting - at both the federal and state levels - have led four states to hold elections in the last two years.

Sabah held its state polls in September 2020, Melaka in November 2021, Sarawak in December 2021, and Johor in March this year.

PH leaders in Selangor have unanimously agreed that the assembly would serve its full term until July next year, while Negeri Sembilan also does not plan to dissolve the assembly early.

In Penang, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced that the state had decided not to hold concurrent elections.

Datuk Takiyuddin of PAS said his party's central committee had agreed the assemblies of Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu would not be dissolved before March next year.

"The party's central committee made the decision in a meeting on Monday (Aug 29).

"This is because we need to continue our focus on economic and health recovery efforts," Mr Takiyuddin said in a statement.

Kedah PAS commissioner Ahmad Yahaya confirmed that the state assembly would not be dissolved, in line with the stand of the party central leadership.

"We will follow what has been announced by our leadership," he said.

Umno leaders including president Zahid Hamidi and deputy president Mohamad Hasan have been pushing for immediate national polls.

Datuk Seri Mohamad has also said the prime minister had agreed to call for elections this year.

With Mr Ismail announcing that the Budget 2023 will be tabled on Oct 7, three weeks earlier than scheduled, it has been speculated that Parliament will be dissolved soon after.

Even with only three states in the fray, all 222 parliamentary seats in all states - and federal territories -will be up for grabs.

Currently, PAS has 17 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, while PKR has 36 and DAP 42.

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