Malaysia’s Election Commission said Thursday that national elections will be held on November 19, amid concerns that heavy rain and floods during the year-end monsoon season may deter voters.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved Parliament on October 10 for early polls, ignoring protests from his government allies and the opposition about holding a vote in the monsoon season.
Parliament’s term expires in July 2023, but the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) is feuding with allies in the ruling coalition and believes early voting will weigh in its favor. UMNO is banking on a strong win on its own based on a return of support from ethnic Malays and a fragmented opposition before an expected economic softening next year.
Election Commission chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh said the nomination date for candidates would be November 5, kicking off two weeks of official campaigning. He said 21.17 million voters will be casting their ballots.
Three states will also hold local polls on November 19, he added. Six states controlled by the opposition and ally parties in Ismail’s government have said they would wait until next year before holding elections. Four of the country’s 13 states held polls earlier.
UMNO led Malaysia through the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition since independence from Britain in 1957, but the coalition was brought down in the 2018 elections by a multibillion-dollar financial scandal. The then-Prime Minister Najib Razak has since been imprisoned for 12 years for graft, and UMNO’s current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is also on trial for corruption.
The reformist government led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that took office in 2018 collapsed in less than two years due to defections, returning UMNO to power in a shaky alliance. Ismail, who was appointed by the king in August 2021, is the country’s third prime minister since the 2018 polls. Analysts say new coalitions may be likely after the November 19 general election.
UMNO had less than 40 of the 222 lawmakers in the just-disbanded Parliament, and may not get the simple majority needed to govern on its own.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan alliance, which won the 2018 polls, is the main contender but votes are expected to be split with the emergence of a number of other parties. This includes Mahathir’s own Malay party and the two Malay parties that were part of Ismail’s government.