Malaysia Opposition to Compete With Itself in By-Election

  • Disunity among opposition may give edge to ruling coalition
  • By-elections called after 2 parliamentarians died last month

Another Malaysian opposition party announced plans to contest a by-election this month, setting the stage for a multi-cornered fight that could benefit the ruling party led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Parti Amanah Negara will field a candidate for the parliamentary seat of Sungai Besar in Selangor state, the New Straits Times reported, citing the party. The opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, known as PAS, and Najib’s United Malays National Organisation have also named entrants for the race.

Nomination day is Sunday for the June 18 vote. Amanah hasn’t named anyone for another by-election happening at the same time in a northern state.

Disunity among opposition parties helped hand Najib’s coalition a bigger majority in an election last month in Sarawak, the country’s biggest state. The polls this month provide another opportunity to test the voter mood on Najib, who has faced funding scandals and financial troubles at a government investment company as well as residual public anger over the implementation last year of a goods and services tax.

The by-elections were triggered when deputy plantation minister Noriah Kasnon and Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad, chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, were killed in a helicopter crash in Sarawak. Both were lawmakers from UMNO, the lead party in one of the longest-ruling coalitions in the world.

PAS had called on other opposition groups to avoid three-way contests in the June by-elections, the Star newspaper reported May 13. The seats have traditionally been contested by PAS, deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was quoted as saying. The party has named candidates for both by-elections.

PAS, whose conservative faction defeated moderates in internal leadership polls a year ago, left the opposition alliance in 2015 as ties frayed with the mostly ethnic-Chinese Democratic Action Party over efforts to implement the Islamic penal code in a PAS-controlled state. Parti Amanah Negara is made up of moderates who left PAS last year.

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