Prime Minister Najib Razak’s governing coalition won its first by-election since Malaysia’s national polls in May, preventing a fourth state assembly from falling into opposition hands.
The vote yesterday was the first test of public sentiment since Najib’s coalition was returned to power by its narrowest margin since independence in 1957. Barisan Nasional went into the poll with a one-seat majority in the Terengganu state government following the death of an assemblyman.
Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abd Rahman, a 37-year-old engineer, won the Kuala Besut seat for Najib’s coalition with a 2,592-vote majority, fending off competition from a 48-year-old businessman from Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition alliance, according to the state news service Bernama.
A loss would have been a setback for Najib as he waits to see whether he’ll be challenged for leadership of his own party, the United Malays Nasional Organisation, later this year.
“This is a Barisan Nasional stronghold, so it was expected to win,” Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive officer of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, said in a phone interview from Kuala Lumpur today. “I don’t think there is going to be any challenge to Najib’s position.”
The opposition currently controls three of Malaysia’s 13 state assemblies, down from four before the general election.
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