KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will hold a general election on Nov. 19, its election commission said on Thursday, in a contest that the ruling graft-tainted party hopes will strengthen its hold on power.
The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) may have the edge in next month’s election as the opposition is in disarray, and as turnout is expected to be lower due to voter apathy and the ongoing monsoon season, analysts say.
Voters’ familiarity with UMNO in uncertain economic times is also expected to favour the party, which was defeated in 2018 largely due to the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal that has landed former premier Najib Razak in jail.
Parliamentary candidates will have to file their nominations on Nov. 5, commission chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh told a news conference on Thursday. Campaigning will be held for two weeks.
About 21 million Malaysians are eligible to vote this year, to elect lawmakers to the 222-seat lower house of parliament.
The party or coalition that wins a simple majority – 112 seats – will form the next government.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who has been nominated as UMNO’s PM candidate again, dissolved parliament on Oct. 10th and called for snap polls, saying an election would end years of political instability.
In the 2018 election, the opposition won for the first time in Malaysia’s history due to widespread corruption allegations against UMNO, which had governed for more than 60 years since independence.
But the opposition coalition fell apart in just 22 months due to infighting, returning UMNO – a Malay nationalist party that prioritises interests of the ethnic-Malay majority – to power as part of another alliance.
Malaysia has had three prime ministers since the last election in 2018.
Disillusionment with the events after the 2018 election is expected to keep some pro-opposition voters away this year, denting their chances of another win.
Opposition leaders Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim have also gone their separate ways since the collapse of their alliance, leaving the opposition disunited.
The polls come earlier than the September 2023 deadline and during the annual monsoon season that has already triggered floods across Malaysia.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi, Rozanna Latiff and Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Martin Petty)