Umno-led BN boycotts Port Dickson by-election

A poster in Port Dickson with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's image. Mr Anwar is expected to win the by-election easily, but Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Barisan Nasional viewed the seat as being vacated "to fulfil the political ambitions of one
A poster in Port Dickson with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's image. Mr Anwar is expected to win the by-election easily, but Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Barisan Nasional viewed the seat as being vacated "to fulfil the political ambitions of one person".ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Malaysia's main opposition coalition is boycotting an upcoming by-election that would set the stage for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's political comeback.

Umno said Barisan Nasional (BN), which includes two other component parties, would sit out the Port Dickson by-election.

"We see that a seat was vacated to fulfil the political ambitions of one person. We'll take the stand that Barisan Nasional will protest this by-election," Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters. "This means we won't field any candidate from our component parties."

The ward, won by Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the past three general elections, was handpicked by him to mark his return to Parliament in preparation for an expected ascension to be Malaysia's next prime minister.

The seat's incumbent lawmaker, retired naval officer Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, resigned two weeks ago to pave the way for Mr Anwar.

Nomination Day for the by-election is on Saturday, followed by Polling Day on Oct 13.

Mr Anwar, 71, is expected to win the seat easily, but factors such as voter turnout and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stumping for him would be analysed to see if the charismatic politician has the all-round support to be Malaysia's next leader.

 
 
 

The move would mark Mr Anwar's political comeback after a three-year hiatus, having served time in prison prior to receiving a royal pardon in May, following Pakatan Harapan's (PH) victory in the general election.

Ruling pact PH, of which PKR is a member, won the Port Dickson ward with a majority of 17,710 votes in the May elections. This was despite Datuk Danyal coming in as the 11th-hour candidate.

But the election, Mr Zahid says, is a waste of taxpayers' money. "We heard the by-election cost RM3.6 million (S$1.2 million). We hope the allocation can be used on the people instead," he said.

Port Dickson will not be the first time that Umno or BN has boycotted a by-election. They did so previously in 2009 by claiming the state assembly by-election in Penang was called on frivolous grounds due to PKR's internal politicking, and thus a waste of resources.

The Port Dickson by-election will still proceed, as little-known Parti Rakyat Malaysia and independent candidate Stevie Chan have said they will contest the seat.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline 'Umno-led BN boycotts Port Dickson by-election'. Print Edition | Subscribe