By Yudith Ho
The alliance which former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak once led secured victory at the first by-election since the country was plunged into political turmoil in February.
The Barisan Nasional candidate received 13,872 votes at the Chini polls to win a seat in the state assembly of Pahang. That’s 10 times more than the other two combined, including one backed by Mahathir Mohamad, who ousted Najib two years ago but stepped down as premier earlier this year.
The victory is rejuvenating the political alliance that went from ruling Malaysia for more than half a century to being on the sidelines and then back in government, all in the space of 22 months. Barisan Nasional is once again part of the ruling coalition when it backed Muhyiddin Yassin to succeed Mahathir as premier.
“I’m convinced that these by-elections clearly provide evidence that BN is not only still relevant but also has a bright future,” Barisan Nasional Chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday.
The victory doesn’t change the composition of the national parliament, but Barisan Nasional’s popularity could signal potential cracks in its support for the government of Muhyiddin and give it room to demand to be a bigger player in his administration.
It remains unclear how much of a majority Muhyiddin commands in parliament. That’s set to be put to the test as the opposition coalition plans to launch a no-confidence motion against him when parliament sits on July 13, while lawmakers from both sides have said they are preparing for snap polls to solve the political impasse.
Chini is located in Najib’s long-time constituency of Pekan. The former leader was allowed to campaign for the candidate in the by-election and can attend parliament after a judge agreed to delay his ongoing trial for corruption charges linked to troubled state fund 1MDB. Other Barisan Nasional lawmakers have also been charged as part of the 1MDB scandal, which has sparked global investigations into billions of dollars allegedly stolen from the fund.
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.