Commentary: Malaysia state elections – Perikatan Nasional’s Muhyiddin needs a win

The Aug 12 state elections are seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, but they pose the same political risk for Perikatan Nasional coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin, says James Chin, Asian studies professor at the University of Tasmania.

(CNA) – Six of Malaysia’s 13 states – KedahPenangKelantanTerengganuSelangor and Negeri Sembilan – will go to the polls on Aug 12, the first major election held since the 15th General Election (GE15) last November.

Almost everyone sees the state elections as an indirect referendum on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government. The stakes could not be higher.

Mr Anwar’s administration – consisting of his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, arch-rival Barisan Nasional (BN), as well as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) –  only came together in a tenuous alliance after GE15.

What is less frequently discussed is the fact that the state elections pose the same political risk for Muhyiddin Yassin, the head of the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.

Mr Muhyiddin, also referred to by supporters as Abah (a deferential term for “father” in Malay), came extremely close to forming the government last year. He has been in Malaysian politics for decades and was prime minister for 17 months until his resignation in August 2021.

With Mr Muhyiddin’s PN in charge of three of the contested states (Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu) and the remaining three under Mr Anwar’s coalition, Mr Muhyiddin’s political career might be in jeopardy if he doesn’t win big next month.

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