KUCHING - Two political parties in Malaysia's ruling alliance won't be contesting the upcoming state elections in Sarawak, in a display of unity within Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which is led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin, and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) will sit out the Sarawak state-assembly polls, and will instead help its ally Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), said GPS chief James Masing in a statement on Thursday (July 2).
Sarawak, Malaysia's biggest state by land area, typically holds its state polls in a different year than the country's general election.
The next state election is due in the middle of next year, but there is speculation that it could be called this year, The Star online news reported on Thursday.
Bersatu, PAS, GPS and Umno are the main political factions in the ruling PN alliance, which came to power four months ago.
But the PN alliance is a loose, informal grouping whose leaders have at times been at each others' throats, raising questions on how long it could last.
News that Bersatu and PAS will back GPS in Sarawak followed PM Muhyiddin's announcement on Wednesday that his Bersatu party will campaign with Umno in Saturday's state by-election in Chini, Pahang. This would be the first time that Bersatu will work on the ground with its former arch rival Umno.
Tan Sri Masing said the stance to back GPS in the coming Sarawak polls was conveyed by Bersatu president Muhyiddin and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang during a meeting of PN party heads in Putrajaya on Wednesday.
"Sarawak was assured by Muhyiddin and Hadi that although both parties have their branches in Sarawak, they will not contest the state election.
"This assurance will not only clear the way for GPS to fight the opposition head-on but is a good sign that Perikatan component parties respect and honour their commitments to assist GPS when the state election is called," Mr Masing said in a statement as quoted by The Star.
GPS is a coalition of four Sarawak parties - Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (whose president is Mr Masing), Progressive Democratic Party and the Sarawak United People's Party.
Pictures from that Putrajaya meeting of party heads were posted by PM Muhyiddin on Facebook, showing he has the support of all key factions in PN.
They included Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, PAS president Hadi, GPS chairman Abang Johari Tun Openg and Senior Minister Azmin Ali, who leads a group of MPs who in February defected from Parti Keadilan Rakyat.