Malaysia Ruling Pact Defeats Mahathir’s New Party in By-Election

Malaysia’s ruling coalition maintained a winning streak after its representative defeated a candidate from former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s new party.

The Barisan Nasional candidate won 13,060 votes in a by-election in Slim River on Saturday to secure a seat in the Perak state assembly, according to the Election Commission. That compares to the 2,115 votes won by Mahathir’s candidate, who contested as an independent because the party’s registration hasn’t been approved.

The result shows the uphill task Mahathir has ahead of him in familiarizing voters to his Parti Pejuang Tanah Air should Malaysia hold a snap election soon. Parties from both sides of the divide have urged the government to hold nationwide polls to end the political uncertainty that was sparked in late February.

The victory is a boost for Barisan Nasional, which regained some power this year when it became part of a coalition that backed Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister. The alliance already won a by-election in July by a landslide. While the wins won’t affect parliament’s composition, they provide Barisan Nasional more fuel to exert pressure on Muhyiddin and demand a bigger role in his administration.

Muhyiddin commands a razor-thin majority in parliament, made possible when he and several lawmakers defected from the government led by Mahathir earlier this year. His grip on power became more tenuous when the biggest ruling party, UMNO, said it would only support the government on an individual basis.

Slim River is a small town located less than a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. The by-election was held after its incumbent state assemblyman, a Barisan Nasional member, died from a heart attack. Perak state is controlled by the ruling government.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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