MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday announced the dissolution of parliament, paving way for the widely-anticipated 14th General Election slated to be held in early May.
In the televised announcement held at about 12pm today, Najib said he had earlier sought an audience with Malaysia’s Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, to seek the monarch’s consent for the dissolution, which takes effect on April 7.
Najib said the ruler had consented to the dissolution on the proposed date.
“Therefore, I advise the relevant leaders to seek audiences with their respective heads of states to dissolve their respective state legislative assemblies so that the general elections, at the federal and the state levels, could be coordinated concurrently.”
Najib’s five-year term officially ends on June 24, but the prime minister can dissolve parliament anytime before the end of his term with the king’s assent and call an election.
According to the New Straits Times, the Election Commission is expected to announce the dates for nomination and polling by next week. Nominations are expected to be held by April 21 with polling as early as May 5.
Local media reports earlier indicated that the signs of May polls are quite clear. After Najib moves to dissolve parliament, the country has 60 days to hold the elections.
Usually, elections were held within 29 days of dissolution, meaning the next polls would likely be held in the first week of May. The results are expected to be made known several hours after voting ends. Currently, some 14.8 million people are eligible to vote.
At the federal level, candidates would contest for 222 seats that are divided into the same number of constituencies. This means that either the incumbent ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, or the Pakatan Harapan opposition pact, would need to win at least 112 seats to form the government.
In the last election, the BN coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) that represents the majority Malay ethnic community, took on an unprecedented defeat with the popular vote.
The opposition clinched only 40 percent the seats in the last election, but won 51 percent of the popular vote, owing to the country’s “first-past-the-post” electoral system that counts the majority of seats in the country’s constituencies.
The Opposition and civil society groups have pressured Najib to step down over graft allegations regarding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state investment firm, the subject of probes in at least six countries, including the US.
Despite the allegations, political pundits said Najib is expected to breeze through the polls in the next election, which would extend his rule for a third five-year term, maintaining BN’s unbroken rule since independence in 1957.
However, Najib is also facing strong opposition mentor-turned-nemesis from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister for 22 years.
Another scandal involving state plantation company Felda, compounds Najib’s problems as it directly affects millions of small plantation owners and their families who make up for a large portion of the Malay vote bank.
In late March, Mahathir joined hundreds of protesters to rally against the tabling of changes to the country’s electoral boundaries.
Activists and opposition leaders say the redelianation exercise violates the federal constitution and amounts to gerrymandering due to unrepresentative numbers in constituencies.