Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition won a pair of by-elections on Saturday with bigger majorities, helping him solidify his grip on power.
Voters in Sungai Besar in Selangor state and Kuala Kangsar in the northern Perak region opted to keep ruling party lawmakers in the seats, with wider majorities than the 2013 federal election, according to the Election Commission.
The polls came after a helicopter crash last month killed incumbents from Najib’s United Malays National Organisation.
The vote was the first test of public support for Najib on peninsular Malaysia after a year of political turmoil over funding scandals. The size of the wins suggests Najib retains support within the broader Barisan Nasional coalition led by UMNO.
Still, turnout in the semi-urban constituencies was between 71 and 74 percent for the two seats, lower than the Election Commission’s forecast of 75 percent and shy of levels above 80 percent recorded in 2013. That was due to voters living in other cities and outside Malaysia who didn’t return to cast a ballot, official news agency Bernama said, citing EC Chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah.
Former leader Mahathir Mohamad has recently lost traction in his bid to convince party officials that Najib is a liability and will cost them a reign unbroken since 1957. Most UMNO divisional chiefs back the premier, even amid concerns about slowing growth and its impact on ethnic Malays, the cornerstone of the party.
“Najib desperately needs these wins,” said Ahmad Martadha Mohamed, dean of the college of law, government and international studies at Universiti Utara Malaysia. “It will validate his position that despite all the problems he’s facing, they are able to win. Otherwise, his status will be in the balance, especially as president of UMNO.”
Barisan Nasional also secured a bigger majority in recent elections in Malaysia’s biggest state of Sarawak, but the vote across the South China Sea on Borneo island was dominated by local issues. Voters on the peninsula are more attuned to the turmoil surrounding the premier.
Najib, 62, has battled graft accusations since July, and denies wrongdoing. He was cleared by the attorney general this year over revelations that $681 million appeared in his accounts before the 2013 election. The money was a donation from the Saudi royal family and most was later returned, the government said. The premier has also been embroiled in probes into the finances of troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Ministers in Najib’s cabinet made daily trips to the two constituencies before election day, shaking hands and at times handing out bags of rice and other aid to the poor. They sought to counter an opposition focusing on questions about Najib’s credibility. In a Twitter post on Friday, Najib told voters not to taken in by what he called the opposition’s games.
“I support the opposition more than BN, but you have to also think about who has better access to the government, who can get more things done and who can improve your life,” said Mei, an ethnic Chinese fruit seller in Sekinchan town in Sungai Besar who would give only a partial name. “You have to look out for your own interests, and not what the prime minister did or didn’t do.”
A divided opposition made it easier for BN coalition to win, and the presence of multiple candidates assisted it.
Two opposition groups ran against UMNO for both seats, while an independent candidate turned Kuala Kangsar into a four-cornered battle. UMNO won Sungai Besar in 2013 in a straight fight, and Kuala Kangsar in a three-way race, both by narrow margins.
UMNO retained the Sungai Besar seat by 9,191 votes, compared with a 399 vote majority in 2013. In Kuala Kangsar, its candidate — the widow of the parliamentarian who died in the helicopter crash — had 6,969 more votes than her nearest rival even though her Islamic mourning period meant she couldn’t campaign in public.
Racial and religious issues are coming to the fore of Malaysian politics, including the past two weeks of campaigning. UMNO, in power since independence, won the 2013 ballot by its slimmest-ever result as Chinese and Indian electors deserted Najib’s coalition.
Since then, Najib has wooed the Malay majority. He’s reached out to the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia and proposed they work to promote Islam’s doctrines. PAS, which is pushing for the Islamic penal code to be implemented in a state it controls, also competed on Saturday.
Under PAS’s hudud laws, adulterers and apostates could face death by stoning, while those found guilty of theft could have their hands amputated.
About 68 percent of voters in Kuala Kangsar are Malay, 24 percent are Chinese, and Indians and other ethnicities make up the rest, according to the Bernama news agency. In Sungai Besar, Malays make up about 67 percent of voters, while 31 percent are Chinese and the rest minority groups.
“The infighting within the opposition dampened the mood,” said Ibrahim Suffian, an analyst at the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research in Kuala Lumpur. “A lot of young voters, the outstation voters just didn’t come back to vote, there is a lot of disillusionment,” he said.
“Many Chinese are not happy with the way the opposition has been going. BN has used the infighting to their advantage, and Najib is on much firmer ground than he was just after the general elections in 2013 even with the 1MDB issues,” Ibrahim said.
UK Government Has Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
The United Kingdom on Wednesday Approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
British government on Wednesday became the first country to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use, according to the UK government.
The vaccine will be rolled out from next week and the first dose could be administered as early as December 7th, stated people familiar with the matter.
Last week, the UK government announced it had ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 and appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the current junior business minister, as the minister responsible for the deployment of the vaccines.
British government on Wednesday morning said, “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use”
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, revealed that the programme would commence early next week.
“It is very good news,” Hancock said.
Zabarmari Massacre: Buhari to Provide More Resources for the Nigerian Military
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to provide more resources to the military in the aftermath of the Zabarmari massacre.
On Saturday, Boko Haram killed 43 people with around 70 people still missing in Zabarmari, a village in Borno State.
Reacting to the massacre, Buhari, through his official Twitter handle @MBuhari said “Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of Nigerians. Everything is secondary when security is at stake. I will ensure that more resources are made available to the military and other security agencies to prosecute the war against terrorism.
“As we mourn all the lives lost in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis, until we root out the terrorists.
“We will intensify our cooperation with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels, to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“As I noted earlier, the massacre by Boko Haram in Zabarmari is nothing short of senseless, barbaric, gruesome and cowardly. It reinforces our resolve to root out all forms of insurgency and insecurity not just in Borno but everywhere across Nigeria.”
Boko Haram Kills Rice Farmers in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria
Rice farmers were killed on Saturday morning in the Northeast Nigeria by suspected Islamist militants, Boko Haram, according to a Reuters Report.
The report also noted that 30 of the people killed were beheaded while over a dozen others were still missing.
However, resident of the Zambarmari Village where the attacks took place said a total of 70 people were feared dead.
Another resident and Amnesty International were quoted as saying at least 10 women were among those missing.
In another statement by Edward Kallon, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, it was armed men on motorcycles that led the brutal attack on civilians harvesting their fields.
“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon stated.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added, noting that several women are believed to have been kidnapped.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.
On Sunday, Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum of Borno State, who was at the burial told journalists that at least 70 farmers were killed on Saturday.
The Governor, therefore, called on the Federal Government to recruit more Civilian Joint Task Force members, Soldiers and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.
He added that people are facing desperate choices.
“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.
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