PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s election commission said Thursday that national elections will be held on Nov. 19, amid concerns that heavy rains and flooding during the year-end monsoon season could turn away voters.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament on October 10 for early elections, ignoring protests from his government allies and the opposition to hold the vote during the monsoon season.
Parliament’s term expires in July 2023, but his national United Malays organization is at loggerheads with allies in the ruling coalition and believes an early vote is in its favor. UMNO is banking on a strong victory on its own based on the return of support from ethnic Malays and a fragmented opposition ahead of an expected economic easing next year.
Electoral Commission chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh said the date for the nomination of candidates will be November 5, which will begin two weeks of official campaigning. He said that 21.17 million voters will vote.
The three states will also hold local elections on November 19, he added. The six states controlled by opposition and allied parties in Ismail’s government said they would wait until next year. Four of the country’s 13 states have held earlier polls.
UMNO has led Malaysia through a National Front coalition since independence from Britain in 1957, but the coalition was brought down in the 2018 election by a multibillion-dollar financial scandal. Then Prime Minister Najib Razak has since been jailed for 12 years for corruption, and current UMNO 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 election.
Analysts say new coalitions could be likely after the Nov. 19 election.
UMNO had less than 40 of the 222 MPs in the just-dissolved parliament and may not get the simple majority needed to govern on its own.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Alliance of Hope, which won the 2018 election, is the main contender, but the vote is expected to be split by the emergence of a number of other parties. These included Mahathir’s own Malay party and the two Malay parties that were part of Ismail’s government.