Parliament Dissolved and Party Manifestos Released, Malaysia Marches into 14th General Election
With Prime Minister Najib Razak calling for the dissolution of parliament on Friday, the 14th Malaysian General Elections will have to take place within the next 60 days.
Mr. Najib announced the dissolution, which will take place on Saturday, April 7, at his office in Malaysia’s administrative capital of Putrajaya, and stated that the King had already assented to the decision. The very next day, the ruling party, Barisan Nasional (BN), announced their manifesto at a grand event in the nation’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The 14th General Elections, or GE14, is shaping up to be a consequential one, with new alliances formed, along with the return of some old faces. In a shakeup of Prime Ministerial candidates from GE13, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad replaces his former protege, former Deputy Prime Minister and jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
BN has been the ruling coalition of Malaysia since the nation’s independence in 1957, but their dominance in Malaysian politics appears to be under threat by the reemergence of Mr. Mahathir, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Previously aligned with BN, Mr. Mahathir left the party in 2016 to join forces with the opposition pact, Pakatan Harapan (Pakatan). He was later named party chairman and will become the Prime Minister should Pakatan gain control of the government.
After winning only 133 seats in the Dewan Rakyat (People’s Hall) and losing the popular vote in the 2013 General Elections, BN will be seeking a path to restore their two-thirds supermajority in the 222-seat parliament which would empower them to amend the Constitution.
Malaysians will also be casting votes to elect their Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN), or state legislative assembly members, who then determine the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of a state. Currently, the state governments of Selangor, Penang and Kelantan are under the control of the Opposition, while the rest are governed by BN.
This year, all eyes will be on the states of Selangor, Johor, and Kedah.
Selangor is shaping up to be a key battleground state as BN has set their sights on regaining their majority in the state after a 10-year hiatus. Pakatan first won the state in 2008 and has remained in control ever since. However, despite a recent re-delineation exercise which puts several Pakatan-held seats in danger, Pakatan’s Mat Shuhaimi remains confident in his coalition’s ability to nullify BN’s attempts. “We will still be able to retain Selangor”, Shuhaimi reckons as he explains that recent analysis by several organizations predicted a victory for the Opposition coalition.
The battle will be just as, if not more, intense in the southern state of Johor, where a number of high profile politicians are expected to compete. Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who switched parties from BN to Pakatan, is expected to contest in the parliamentary seat of Pagoh, while the current Minister of Health, Dr. S. Subramaniam, will run for reelection in his parliamentary seat of Segamat. Johor currently appears to be a safe state for BN, with the ruling party successfully bringing in jobs, foreign direct investment, and tourism revenue in the past few years, ushering the state into an era of economic progress.
Pakatan’s efforts to dethrone BN in Johor was undermined on Sunday when the Johor crown prince, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, fired a shot at Mahathir by labeling him as a “forked tongue” individual. His comments dealt a large blow to the Opposition pact, as the Crown Prince of Johor has a strong following in the state. Nevertheless, Pakatan’s recent rally in Pasir Gudang, Johor clearly demonstrates that they are not quite ready to give up on the state - and its 56 parliamentary seats - just yet.
Kedah is also a traditional BN stronghold, but the difference this year lies in the fact that Mr. Mahathir is seen as an authentic Kedahan, having been born and raised in the state. Pakatan’s base of support in Kedah is weak, to say the least, but Mr. Mahathir is fondly remembered by many Kedahans who credit the 92-year old for developing the state during his tenure as Prime Minister. Mr. Mahathir is widely rumored to be contesting in the Langkawi seat, a tourist destination that saw major economic improvements under Mr. Mahathir’s premiership. Pakatan’s prospects also brightened due to support from Mr. Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz Mahathir, who was the Chief Minister of Kedah from 2013 to 2016. It will be interesting to see just how far the Mahathir political dynasty can bring Pakatan in the state of Kedah.
This will be the first general election in 49 years in which the candidates of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) - a member of the Pakatan coalition - will not contest under the signature rocket logo. In a rally at Pasir Gudang on Friday, Mr. Mahathir announced that every candidate in the Pakatan coalition - Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), and DAP - will contest under the PKR logo. An exception will be made for DAP candidates in the state of Sarawak, as Pakatan believes that the rocket logo will carry more weight among Sarawakians.
With polls opening on Wednesday, May 9, voters will face a decision which would determine the direction of the country for the next five years.