Islamic opposition concedes Malaysia by-election

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, left, celebrates with ruling National Front coalition candidate Mohd Azahar Ibrahim after winning the by-election for the Tenang State Assembly seat in Tenang, southern Johor, Malaysia. — PHOTO: AP

KUALA LUMPUR – A SENIOR Malaysian opposition politician conceded on Sunday the country’s ruling coalition had won a ‘comfortable victory’ in a by-election, amid speculation of snap polls this year.

The vote was called in the semi-rural Tenang constituency in southern Johor state after the death of a state assemblyman from the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional coalition.

‘The initial results showed that the ruling coalition has secured a comfortable victory,’ Mahfuz Omar, vice-president of the conservative Islamic Party (PAS), part of the opposition alliance, told AFP.

‘We lost because Johor state and Tenang constituency are Barisan’s stronghold. We were not able to win over the Malay and Chinese voters,’ he said.

Analysts have said that a convincing victory would indicate support for Prime Minister Najib Razak remains intact in Umno’s heartland, potentially spurring the ruling coalition to call national polls this year after the opposition made unprecedented gains in elections in 2008.

The Election Commission said turnout among the 14,753 voters at the byelection was 71.8 per cent. — AFP