Anwar against year-end polls as monsoon season looms

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the annual monsoon floods had left tens of thousands homeless in the past. PHOTO: ANWAR IBRAHIM/FACEBOOK

BANGKOK - Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is against holding the next general election towards the end of the year, citing the annual monsoon floods that had left tens of thousands of people homeless in the past.

"The priority is to settle this and deal with the flood problem before the end of the year, and after that have the elections," said Datuk Seri Anwar, who was speaking to journalists at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Thursday.

At the height of the monsoon season in December last year, some 60,000 people took shelter in relief centres, with at least 54 deaths recorded.

This time, several Malaysian states such as Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang are expected to be lashed by heavy rains from November till early next year during the north-east monsoon season, according to the meteorological department.

The alert comes amid widespread speculation that Parliament could be dissolved as soon as October, after the tabling of the 2023 Budget on Oct 7.

The 15th General Election is not due until September 2023, but Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob faces pressure from other Umno party members, including party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who are pushing for snap polls.

Datuk Seri Ismail said on Sept 17 that the country is "very close" to holding the next general election, and he will soon be meeting top party members, including Zahid who faces corruption charges, to set a date for the election.

"An election in November? There is a slight possibility," said Mr Anwar. "But rationally speaking, (the election) should not be held this year. But not all leaders are rational animals."

His sentiment was echoed on Thursday by Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who is also deputy president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). He said the election should be held next year to allow the government to focus on flood preparations this year, reported the Malay Mail.

Mr Anwar, touching on a range of issues on Thursday, said there are ongoing talks about working with other parties.

"We have to discuss the parameters and principles, I don't think I will go for a coalition just for political expediency," said Mr Anwar, who is also the leader of the Pakatan Harapan coalition. He added that potential coalition members must be committed to democratic reforms and stamping out corruption.

When asked if he would be open to a coalition with any faction of Umno should the ruling party split, Mr Anwar said it depends on whether they "subscribe to the old obsolete racial policies of Umno".

He added that he was in Thailand to meet some leaders to discuss issues involving both countries, including "the south", but did not elaborate on the topics.

Thailand's restive deep south, which borders Malaysia, has been wrecked by a decades-long separatist insurgency and in August was hit by multiple bomb and arson attacks.

"I don't represent the government, but I am concerned for peaceful, amicable resolution of conflict," said Mr Anwar.

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