Malaysia’s ruling coalition wins Sabah to promote PM Muhiddin Malaysia

 Malaysia's ruling coalition wins Sabah to promote PM Muhiddin Malaysia

The victory in Savar state is likely to strengthen the PM’s position as he faces a leadership challenge from Anwar Ibrahim.

The ruling coalition of Malaysian Prime Minister Muhiddin Yassin has won a crucial state election, a vote widely seen as a referendum on his seven-month rule.

The victory of the Sabah state in Borneo is likely to strengthen Muhiddin’s position as he faces a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who said this week that he has a parliamentary majority to overthrow the prime minister.

Muhiddin’s Perikton National (PN) coalition and its allies won 38 seats out of 73 in Saturday’s election, which was previously controlled by the opposition state.

Muhiddin had earlier said that a victory in Sabah could pave the way for early national elections to end uncertainty over the stability of his ruling coalition, which has a two-seat majority in parliament.

Fanatical government

Analysts warned that for Muhindin, defeat in the eastern Sabah state could mean the end of his imaginary coalition government.

Muhidin came to power in March after forming a coalition with opposition parties following the shock resignation of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

Opponents of Muhiddin have accused him of stealing power by changing alliances instead of ballots, and his allies have been pressuring him for months to call a national referendum to get a stronger mandate.

While the outcome did not directly affect the balance of power at the national level, it was a key test of Muhiddin’s popularity.

If it had weakened, the coalition partners might have withdrawn their support from their government and forced a national referendum.

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Malaysian Prime Minister Muhiddin Yassin says victory in Sabah state could pave way for early national elections [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

The first test

But Bridget Welsh, a Malaysian expert at the University of Nottingham, warned that Muhiddin’s troubles were over.

“He passed the first major election exam, but barely,” he told the AFP news agency. “He lives a man on borrowing time.”

Earlier this week, opposition leader Anwar claimed that he had the support of a majority of members of parliament, and said that Muhin’s coalition had broken down.

However, he declined to confirm the number of MPs while the king who appointed the country’s prime minister has postponed the visit to meet him due to ill health.

Adib Zalkapali, director of BowerGroupAsia, a political risk adviser, told Reuters news agency that with the victory in Sabah, Muhiddin’s coalition could now confidently lead the federal coalition in the general election.

“He will use the victory to deny any challenge to the federal leadership.”

Malaysia’s economy comes at a time of power struggles unleashed by the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Muhidin has announced an stimulus package of 505 billion ringgit (.1b.1 of િયન billion), with additional measures announced just three days before the Sabah polls.

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