Victory in Sabah state is likely to strengthen Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s position as he faces the leadership challenge.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s ruling coalition won key state elections, in a vote that was widely seen as a seven-month referendum on his administration.
Victory in the state of Sabah in Borneo is likely to bolster Muhyiddin’s position as he faces a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who said this week that he has the necessary parliamentary majority to overthrow the prime minister.
Muhyiddin Perikatan Nasional’s coalition (PN) and its allies won 38 of the 73 seats up for grabs in Saturday̵
Muhyiddin previously said that victory in Sabah could pave the way for early national elections aimed at ending uncertainty about the stability of his ruling alliance, which has a two-seat majority in parliament.
Analysts had warned that Muhyiddin’s defeat in eastern Sabah state could mean the end of his irritable coalition rule.
Muhyiddin came to power in March after forming an alliance with opposition parties following the shocking resignation of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.
Muhyiddin’s opponents have accused him of stealing power by moving alliances rather than voting, and his allies have lobbied him for months to call instant national elections to secure a strong mandate.
While the result doesn’t directly affect the national balance of power, it was a key test of Muhyiddin’s popularity.
Had he misbehaved, coalition partners could have withdrawn their support from his government and forced a national ballot.
But Bridget Welsh, a Malaysian expert at the University of Nottingham, warned that Muhiyddin’s troubles were far from over.
“He passed the first major election test, but barely,” he told AFP news agency. “He remains a man in the lent time.”
Earlier this week, opposition leader Anwar said he gained the support of a majority of members of parliament and said Muhyiddin’s coalition has collapsed.
However, he refused to reveal the number of lawmakers who support him as the king, who appoints the country’s premier, has postponed an appointment to see him due to health problems.
Adib Zalkapli, director of political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia, told Reuters news agency that with the victory in Sabah, Muhyiddin’s coalition “can now confidently lead a federal coalition in general elections.”
“He will use victory to repel any challenge to federal leadership.”
The struggle for power comes as the Malaysian economy falters from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muhyiddin announced a 305 billion ringgit ($ 73.16 billion) stimulus package, including additional measures announced just three days before the Sabah polls.