Malaysia’s Sabah state holds elections

Malaysia’s Sabah state holds elections today, an event likely to determine the strength, and possibly the future, of Prime Minister

Sabah Elections geraldine tong

Photo: Geraldine Tong

Malaysia’s Sabah state holds elections today, an event likely to determine the strength, and possibly the future, of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coalition government.

15 parties are contesting the 73-seat state assembly, but the battle boils down to Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition and the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition that supports the incumbent Warisan party in Sabah.

PN has attacked Sabah’s pro-migrant stance as eroding opportunities for the state’s ethnic and indigenous groups in a bid for their support. This nativist sentiment has gained traction due to recent Philippine claims that question the territorial sovereignty of Sabah. Yassin has also enjoyed increasing support due to his government’s effective pandemic management and has capitalised on this confidence by promising more aid to manage the pandemic in Sabah.

Warisan has countered these claims, arguing that these powers remain under the jurisdiction of the federal government and beyond the efficacy of state representatives. However, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s bombshell declaration that his party has federal parliamentary majority support, if proven true, is likely to boost support for Warisan. A win in Sabah for PN would likely strengthen Yassin’s razor-thin majority in government. If he secures Sabah, expect Yassin to call for snap elections to consolidate his control at the federal level.

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