Malaysia's ruling party Umno pushes for national elections this year

New Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves from a car, as he leaves after the inauguration ceremony, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug 21, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

      KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party, which forms the biggest component of the ruling coalition, agreed to hold a general election this year, its top decision-making body said.

      An election is not due until September 2023, but several Umno lawmakers have been calling on Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to hold early elections for a stronger mandate and due to infighting.

      However, Ismail's coalition is not unanimous over the election timing. Many lawmakers from his own Umno party and other alliance partners have cited economic woes such as the rising cost of living, as well as the year-end monsoon season and ensuing flooding for not holding polls this year.

      Umno's supreme council agreed that parliament should be dissolved in the near future for the election should be held this year, party secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said in a statement late on Friday.

      The prime minister will present a proposed dissolution date to Malaysia's King Al-Sultan Abdullah, he said. He did not say when the PM would meet with the monarch.

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      An election must be held within 60 days from the dissolution of parliament.

      Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and the king typically acts on the prime minister's advice. But the king does have certain discretionary powers, including withholding consent for dissolution of the parliament.

      Malaysia has grappled with political uncertainty since 2018 when former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad led an opposition coalition to election victory over Umno, which had governed the country through a stable coalition for more than six decades.

      Two governments have collapsed since then, including Mahathir's.

      Ismail became Malaysia's third prime minister in two years in August last year.