Muhyiddin says polls should be quickly held if PN wins in Sabah

Malaysian PM openly voices possibility of snap general election for first time

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin delivering a speech during an event yesterday in Kota Belud, Sabah. His Perikatan Nasional coalition, with its allies Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah, hopes to replace Parti Warisan Sabah as the stat
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin delivering a speech during an event yesterday in Kota Belud, Sabah. His Perikatan Nasional coalition, with its allies Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah, hopes to replace Parti Warisan Sabah as the state government. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KOTA BELUD • Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that his six-month-old government "should quickly" hold a general election if his allies win the Sept 26 Sabah state polls.

This is the first time that he has openly voiced the possibility of snap national polls amid regular accusations by the opposition that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition that he leads is a "backdoor government".

Umno, a partner but not a member of PN, has been pushing for an early general election as well, as it believes it could return to power and choose its own prime minister.

"At the national level, we haven't decided when the general election should be called," Tan Sri Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency, while campaigning in Kota Belud, Sabah.

"But if we win the state election in Sabah... we should quickly hold the general election."

He added: "What's important in the Sabah polls is the signal that we can get on whether or not they are supporting Perikatan Nasional or wanting me to continue being the prime minister, because we want Malaysia to move forward and succeed. One of the ways to succeed is to stick with me."

The next general election is not due until 2023, but there have been persistent whispers that Mr Muhyiddin would call for snap polls in the next few months.

Sabah was controlled by a federal opposition alliance led by Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) after the 2018 general election, but it crumbled at end-July after a group of state assemblymen defected, which led to fresh elections being called.

Mr Muhyiddin's PN, with its allies Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah, hopes to replace Warisan as the state government.

A win would, at the same time, cement the findings of a recent survey that the Premier is popular among voters.

A survey by independent pollster Merdeka Centre released early this month found that Mr Muhyiddin's approval rating among Malaysians was at 69 per cent. The PN coalition and its partners scored well below 50 per cent, making the Premier an asset among voters.

 
 
 

The survey found that 51 per cent of those polled believe Malaysia is headed in the right direction, double the 25 per cent who felt the same way during rival Pakatan Harapan's (PH) final months in power.

Warisan is aligned to the PH coalition that ruled Malaysia before it was replaced by PN six months ago.

Mr Muhyiddin said Sabahans should vote for PN-allied parties as the federal government would be able to bring development to Sabah, the second-biggest among Malaysia's 13 states and one of its poorest.

"If there is a chance to form a new state government, do not opt for Warisan because Pakatan Harapan has ceased to exist and no longer rules the country," Mr Muhyiddin said, as quoted by Bernama.

"I don't think the Sabah people would still want to choose the opposition during this very critical situation, especially when economic activities are declining due to Covid-19."

De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan told Parliament last month that it could cost RM1.2 billion (S$396.2 million) to hold a general election in Malaysia amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2020, with the headline 'Muhyiddin says polls should be quickly held if PN wins in Sabah'. Subscribe