October 20222022International NewsAsia

Malaysian Prime Minister Dissolves Parliament and Calls Early Elections

Joseph Brennan
Staff Writer

On October 10, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, announced to the public that parliament would be dissolved. CNBC reports that this will pave the way for an early election, legitimizing the next Malaysian administration. The exact date of the election will be determined by the election committee, states Al Jazeera. According to Malaysian law, when parliament is dissolved for an early election, the election must take place within 60 days of the dissolution.

To adjourn parliament, Yaakob had to put a request through to the constitutional monarch of Malaysia, King Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, or Abdullah of Pahang. According to Channel News Asia, King Abdullah stated that he felt parliament needed to dissolve so there could be a popular election to reflect the people’s will. He was disappointed with the level of political distress in Malaysia and “hoped that the Election Committee will hold an election [soon].” 

The urgency for this election stems from the upcoming monsoon season that killed fifty people last year, according to CNBC. If the election is held during monsoon season, the turnout to the polls will be significantly decreased and may not accurately represent the opinion of the people. Monsoons in Malaysia consist of torrential downpour, making it extremely difficult for people to travel and get to polling booths to vote, says National Geographic.

Prime Minister Yaakob has stated that his goal is to keep the government of Malaysia not only respected in the international community, but by its citizens. The election comes after the dismantling of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party of Malaysia for nearly 60 years. In 2018, the UMNO lost general elections to the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a political party founded by Malaysia’s former autocrat, Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, explains Brookings. Despite this effort, the UMNO took control again in 2020 after the new coalition fell apart due to internal dissent. In August 2021, the coalition again dissolved, allowing Yaakob, a member of the UMNO, to take the prime minister position, says Al Jazeera. 

The reason for such political turmoil in Malaysia is not only the collapse of the UMNO, but also the discovery of the former prime minister, Najib Razak’s, involvement in a multibillion-dollar scandal.  reports that Razak has denied “any wrongdoing,” though the court has found him guilty on seven counts involving transferring $9.4 million to personal bank accounts. This resulted in a sentence of 12 years in prison and a $46.8 million fine. Although his lawyers have pushed for a not-guilty verdict, they have not prevailed. In addition to the former prime minister facing charges, the current President of UMNO, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is also on trial for graft. He also pledged the party’s allegiance to Razak, saying it would stand behind him until he received true justice, adds the Associated Press.

Yaakob has also been under pressure from the UMNO chairs to push for an earlier election. In one of its last efforts, the Yaakob administration created its budget for 2023, which included government spending of 372 billion ringgits, or $80 billion, says CNBC. This amount has dipped from 385.3 billion ringgits, or $85 billion, due to the stagnation of Malaysia’s economy. According to Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz, the budget plan is to even out financial needs within the general population. The budget also includes 42 billion ringgits, or $9 billion, for public welfare, including cash handouts to poor families and communities, according to the Associated Press. The budget will have to be voted on again in 2023 after the elections. 

Image courtesy of Mil.ru, Flickr

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