Elections in six Malaysian states expected to be held by July

(The Straits Times) – State assembly elections in six Malaysian states are expected to take place simultaneously by July, a top leader of opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) said on Sunday.

The party vice-president Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, who is also Deputy Menteri Besar of Kelantan – one of three states controlled by PAS – said the dissolution of state assemblies for all the six states is expected to take place in stages in June, based on an understanding between the six state governments.

The states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah are due to face state assembly elections by the second half of this year. Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah are all led by PAS – a key component of Malaysia’s leading opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN). The other three states are led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

“Kelantan has already decided to dissolve the state assembly at the end of June,” Datuk Amar said on Sunday, after attending a Hari Raya Puasa open house hosted by Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob.

In February, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari revealed that all six state chiefs had met and come to an understanding that their state assemblies will advise their respective rulers and governors of a dissolution towards the end of June, before Hari Raya Haji celebrations, which take place on June 29.

The Election Commission has 60 days from the date of dissolution to hold an election, but it typically holds an election a month from the date of dissolution. All six states are expected to have simultaneous elections in an attempt to save costs after political wrangling saw at least three states hold separate state elections in the past three years.

Only three states decided to hold simultaneous state elections with the federal parliamentary election that took place in November last year – which resulted in a hung Parliament – before Datuk Seri Anwar managed to cobble together a majority by allying with PH’s long-time rivals Barisan Nasional (BN).

The state elections are set to serve as an important barometer to gauge support for Mr Anwar’s administration, less than a year after he took power. PH expects to retain all the three states it currently leads, while also targeting to take over Kedah from PN.

However, PN remains optimistic about its chances of defending its three states while making gains in PH states, after gaining a majority of Malay votes during the 2022 general election – where it won 74 parliamentary seats. It made a near clean sweep of Terengganu’s, Kelantan’s and Kedah’s parliamentary seats, and also made significant headways in the northern regions of Penang and Selangor, states that have been controlled by PH since 2008.

Malaysia’s divided political landscape – kick-started by the collapse of the first PH administration in 2020 – has seen many states break away into separate terms for their state assembly. Up until 2018, 12 of Malaysia’s 13 states had held state elections concurrently with federal polls – with Sarawak the only exception.

However, the states of Sabah, Melaka and Johor broke ranks in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively as political wrangling caused the collapse or instability in the respective state governments – leading to separate state elections.

PAS and PH decided that their six states would collectively sit out federal polls in 2022 – after disagreeing with the timing of Parliament’s dissolution by Umno-led BN – which fell close to the monsoon season, with fears of flooding.

That left only three states – Perlis, Pahang and Perak – joining the federal government in holding simultaneous elections.

BN was trounced during the 2022 election, winning only 30 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, although it remains in government after allying with PH.

PH and PN are now seen as the most powerful political blocs in the country following the 2022 polls, and both coalitions are expected to enter a fierce contest with each other during the state polls.