Early budget reveal sparks talk of snap elections in Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government announced on Friday that it will submit its 2023 national budget on Oct. 7, three weeks ahead of schedule, sparking speculation it may call a snap general election.

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Polls are not expected until September next year, but Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has come under pressure from his United Malays National Organization party to dissolve parliament for an early vote.

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Justice Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said in a statement that the budget would be unveiled on October 7 instead of October 28. He said the last session of Parliament of the year would be brought forward for this purpose.

Ismail Sabri told local media that the decision to present the budget earlier is not unusual and has already been taken by other administrations.

« It’s a powerful sign of a possible snap election, » said Oh Ei Sun of Singapore’s Institute of International Affairs. “A large part of the population is still in difficulty and largely depends on government aid to help them out. Thus, generous budget statements are generally seen as a means of winning short-term electoral support.

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An election must be called within 60 days of the dissolution of Parliament. If called this year, it will probably be before the end of November to avoid the year-end monsoon.

The government announcement came ahead of a special UMNO meeting on Saturday convened by party chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on its election preparations and other current issues.

Calls for early UMNO polls intensified after ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak lost his latest appeal on Tuesday in a corruption case linked to the massive looting of state fund 1MDB and immediately began a 12-year sentence. years in prison.

Najib remains influential within the party despite his conviction and faces four other trials related to 1MDB. He and Ahmad Zahid, who also faces corruption charges, have launched calls for snap elections to capitalize on returning support among ethnic Malays for the party and a distraught opposition. Some accused the two men of trying to speed up the elections to seek a favorable outcome to their trials, which they both denied.

UMNO had ruled Malaysia since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957, but was ousted in the 2018 general election amid public anger over the 1MDB scandal. He returned to power after the collapse of the reformist government which won the 2018 election due to defections.

Although the current Prime Minister is from UMNO, he depends on the support of allied Malaysian parties. UMNO, which has said it will not work with its allies in the current coalition government in upcoming elections, aims to win big so as not to be beholden to other parties.


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