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Malaysia’s 15th general election, explained: Floods, climate change and years of political instability



CNN

Malaysians head to polls on Saturday to vote for years of new government political turmoil.

Three prime ministers have ruled the Southeast Asian nation since frenzied elections with record turnout four years ago over the key issue of corruption. The economy and rising cost of living could be the main battlegrounds this time around.

in the meantime, climate change Heavy rains and flooding have posed a potential disruptor after weeks of disrupted campaigns in about half the country.

Even more heavy rain is expected on Election Day, which could reduce voter turnout, but officials say the election will go on rain or shine.

Here’s what to expect.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Ya’aqob, who came to power last year amid public outrage over the government’s handling of the pandemic, is looking to gain greater powers.

His ruling Barysan Nacional (BN) coalition — made up of right-wing parties including the dominant United Malay National Organization (UMNO) — has pledged to prioritize political stability.

Since 2015, Malaysian politics has been overshadowed by the 1MDB corruption scandal. It overthrew former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.

“We don’t want to back down,” UMNO senior member Isham Jalil told CNN. “For the time being, we want to focus on political stability as well as growing the economy to make up for post-pandemic unemployment.

But polls show growing support for former deputy prime minister and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Analysts say an alliance of center-left and center-right parties could present strong evidence, even if heavy rains could discourage his supporters from voting.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at an election rally in Kuala Lumpur.

Seeking re-election is Mahathir Mohamadthe 97-year-old former leader who was recently hospitalized for heart disease.

The 90-year-old was ousted as prime minister by his own party two years ago after becoming the country’s leader for the second time in 2018.

He defends his stronghold in the resort town of Langkawi with the newly formed Malay ethnic alliance Gelakan Thana Air, or Homeland Movement. He is expected to win the seat thanks to his strong local support, but analysts say he is unlikely to return as prime minister.

Altogether, nearly 1,000 candidates will vie for 222 seats in Congress.

rising cost of living Government integrity is the most important issue for voters in this election, according to a YouGov poll.

Although the economy was able to recover quickly from the pandemic, Unemployment rate close to 4% It remains a concern, especially among new graduates.

According to YouGov, income was “most important”, especially among younger voters.

But despite adding 6 million young voters to the 21 million Malaysian electorate, experts say the election will 2018 – with uncertain results.

Ei Sun Oh, a political commentator at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said years of instability had made many Malaysians disillusioned with politics.

“In 2018, there was at least greater enthusiasm among voters about the potential for regime change and combating corruption, so voter turnout was at a historic high,” he said. “I don’t know if it will happen again this time.”

Thomas Huang, president of the Belsi Union movement for clean elections, said it would be difficult to match the historic turnout of 82% in 2018.

“This election (campaign) has been unusually subdued compared to the last few general elections,” Huang said. “It could be due to Covid and the availability of other platforms to campaign online and track hashes. It could be voter indifference.”

People rescue a motorbike in a flooded street in Klang, Malaysia, 10 November 2022.

According to YouGov, the environment has been a low priority for voters despite the increase in extreme weather in recent years.

But extreme weather can still affect elections.

Like most of its Southeast Asian neighbors, Malaysia is vulnerable to seasonal flooding.

But last year’s deluge was the worst ever recorded, killing 54 people and displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Heavy rains will return this year. At least 3,000 people have been evacuated from floods in his seven states in Malaysia this week, according to disaster relief officials.

And with more bad weather expected over the weekend, it’s unclear if voters will turn out in large numbers, especially if heavy rains and flooding persist, experts said.

“If it rains heavily, voter turnout will drop,” said Bersi’s Huang, who has previously expressed concerns about holding elections during the monsoon season.

“We have already seen extreme flooding across the state, and we may have to call off voting in some areas that could affect voters, especially if competition is tight.” Mr Fan said.

But some say voters’ indifference could be washed away if the floods return just days before the big election.

Bridget Welsh, an analyst at the Asian Institute Malaysia at the University of Nottingham in Kuala Lumpur, said voter turnout was expected to be low, but holding elections during the monsoon season could backfire on the government. said there is.

The heavy rains “helped PH gain more support by drawing negative attention to the ruling BN coalition and their selfish, power-hungry election calls,” she said. “It is (already) decisive in flooded areas.”

Malaysia’s 15th general election is already shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable.

Experts agree that there is unlikely to be a clear winner and no single party can claim a parliamentary majority.

“We will end up with a hung parliament,” MP Charles Santiago said. “There will be no dominant party or clear winner,” he said, adding that now is “not the best or most strategic time” for the government to hold elections.

Political commentator Ohr agreed that the coalition should be maintained.

“UMNO won big in recent state elections in Johor and Malacca,” he said.

“Parties may be very good at using their resources to rally supporters on Election Day and they may be the most likely to win the most seats, but they still have to form a coalition. It won’t.”

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