Malaysia’s Ruling Coalition Wins By-Election Battle

Najib Razak, Malaysia's prime minister
Najib Razak, Malaysia's prime minister, speaks during an interview in Hong Kong in March. Photographer: Sarni Ocampo/Bloomberg

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition won a by-election in the state of Selangor, after losing six of the previous eight parliamentary seats it has contested since the March 2008 general election.

The Hulu Selangor state seat was won by National Front coalition candidate P. Kamalanathan, the official Bernama news service reported, citing the Election Commission. He beat former law minister Zaid Ibrahim from the Anwar Ibrahim-led People’s Justice Party by 1,725 votes, it said.

“The ultimate test will actually be the general election, but I am very encouraged by the support from the public,” the prime minister told reporters today in Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur. “We have to show more results, including proper execution and implementation.”

Najib, who completed his first year as premier on April 3, has eased investment rules and promised a revamp of the country’s affirmative action policies in an effort to boost outside investment. The platform has helped regain support for the government in states such as Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state by gross domestic product.

“The Malaysian public is translating their satisfaction with the prime minister and the government into votes,” said Ibrahim Suffian, director of the Merdeka Center, an independent research institute based outside Kuala Lumpur.

Selangor came under opposition rule in the March 2008 general elections when the People’s Alliance won control of five states, and gained a record number of parliamentary spots, denying the National Front a two-thirds majority.

“One setback shall not divert us from our goal,” Anwar said in a note to supporters today. “The economy is lagging, jobs are scarce and our education system remains mediocre at best.”

Zaid quit as law minister in 2008 in protest over the arrest of a blogger, a journalist and a lawmaker under a security act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. He was later removed from the United Malays National Organisation, the biggest party in the National Front coalition.

The Hulu Selangor state seat fell vacant after the previous state assemblyman, Zainal Abidin Ahmad, died of cancer last month.

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