KOTA BELUD, SABAH - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday (Sept 18) that his six-month old government "should quickly" hold a general election if his allies win the Sept 26 Sabah state polls.
This was 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 loose partner in PN, too has been pushing for an early general election 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... but if we win the state election in Sabah... we should quickly hold the general election," he was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency, while campaigning in Kota Belud, Sabah.
"What's important in 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," he added.
The next general election isn't due until 2023, but there have been persistent whispers that he would call for snap polls in the next few months.
Sabah was controlled by a federal opposition alliance led by Parti Warisan Sabah after the 2018 general election, but crumbled at end-July after a group of state assemblymen defected, which led to fresh elections being called.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin's PN, with its allies Barisan Nasional, 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, thus making him an asset among voters.
The survey found 51 per cent of those polled believe Malaysia is headed in the right direction, double from the 25 per cent who felt the same way in the final months in power of rival Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Warisan is aligned to the PH coalition that ruled Malaysia before it was replaced by PN six months ago.
The Prime Minister said Sabahans should vote for PN-allied parties as the federal government would be able to bring development to the state, 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 the economic activities are declining due to Covid-19. We need to overcome this difficult situation and that is why we need a Perikatan-aligned state government," he added.
De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan told Parliament in August that it could cost RM1.2 billion (S$400 million) for Malaysia to hold a general election amid the Covid-19 pandemic.