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.
FG Has Paid Fuel marketers N74B in Seven Months — NMDPRA
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) on Wednesday disclosed that the federal government has paid oil marketers N74 billion as bridging claims in last seven months..
The agency said it was reacting to claims by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN), Suleja branch, that continuing fuel scarcity was caused by non-payment of bridging claims.
The agency said it paid N71.2 billion bridging claims and another N2.7 billion freight differentials to the marketers as of June 6.
In May, IPMAN said the government owed its members half a trillion naira being the cost of transporting petrol across the country.
However, at the time NMDPRA had claimed to have paid oil marketers bridging claims of about N59 billion in five months.
In recent months, fuel scarcity has worsened in Abuja and several other cities across the country.
Marketers had listed the high cost of buying petrol at the depots and the high cost of diesel to truck them as the major factors responsible for the recent queue.
On Monday, the government announced that the nation’s capital petroleum deliveries were up nearly 100 per cent after the government offered additional N10 freight reimbursements to marketers.
The statement by the NMDPRA reads: “The attention of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) has been drawn to allegations made by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association Nigeria (IPMAN Suleja Branch) on product scarcity as a result of non-payment of bridging claims.
“The authority chief executive of the NMDPRA, at a meeting held on 17th May 2022 with IPMAN bridging payment was discussed extensively and the processes were explained and agreed upon by IPMAN.
“He assured IPMAN of NMDPRA’s willingness to continue making payments of outstanding claims to promote seamless operations.
“Pursuant to the meeting, the NMDPRA went ahead to make an additional payment of N10 billion in June and sought for an upward review of the freight rate which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and is currently being implemented.
“The Authority wishes to reiterate that bridging payment is an ongoing process which is carried out after due verification exercise by the Authority and Marketers.
“So far, the Authority paid N71,233,712,991 bridging claims and another N2,736,179,950.84 freight differentials to the Marketers as at 6th June 2022.
“A breakdown of payment made to Marketers is as follows: Major Marketers (MOMAN) received N9,958,777,487.24, IPMAN members were paid N42,301,923,616.96, NNPC Retails N6,661,459,118.61 while DAPPMAN members were paid N12,303,195,651.57, these translate to a total of N73,969,892,941.84.
“It is disheartening that despite these payments and increase of N10 bridging cost, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks ago, IPMAN could turn around to accuse the NMDPRA of insensitivity,” the statement said.
It said NMDPRA remains committed to ensuring a safe, efficient, and effective conduct of midstream and downstream petroleum operations.
Nigeria-Cameroon Link Bridge up for Inauguration this June – Fashola
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has stated that the Nigeria-Cameroon link bridge will be inaugurated this June.
Speaking at the 16th inter-ministerial meeting of the group in Abuja, Fashola who doubles as the Chairman of the five regional ministerial steering committees, explained that the largely funded bridge by the African Development Bank (AfDB) is completed and in hopes that ECOWAS would deliver support for the inauguration.
“We have completed a new link bridge that links Nigeria to Cameroon, and it was funded largely by the AfDB and we are hoping that the ECOWAS commission will give us the necessary support to ensure the formal opening of that bridge sometime in the month of June,” he said.
The commitment to the piece of infrastructure, according to the minister, is to transform the road network into a first-class six-lane motorway, emphasizing that while speed is important, quality must not be lost.
“We’re trying to deliver a better life for five countries and over 40 million people who use that corridor, almost on a daily basis.
“The future is bright, this is an important investment for the people of Africa to achieve the objective of the Africa Union (AU) to create a trans-African highway,” he stated.
Lydie Ehouman, AfDB’s Chief Transport Economist and Project Task Manager, also spoke at the event, stating that the bank had been able to acquire an additional €3.5 million for the road project.
Investors King gathered that the total sum available for the initial financing of the project’s strategic research has increased to $41 million.
“The agreement for the on-lending of this additional grant by the bank to ECOWAS is currently being finalised. Thus, in addition to its substantial contribution of $25 million, the bank will have mobilised €12.63 million in the form of a grant from the European Union.
“This brings the total amount available for the financing of this highly strategic study to the equivalent of about US$ 41 million,” she stated.
She did, however, point out that specialists in member countries’ claims of delays were untrue, because the arrangement was that labor should persist while any differences were aired and rectified.
UNDP, DPGA to Promote Global Digital Goods
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), the government of Norway, and Sierra Leone have agreed to promote inclusive digital public infrastructure in countries across the world.
On Wednesday, Investors King gathered that world leaders, development organisations and philanthropic funders are set to invest in a “large-scale technology sharing, funding, and commitment to supporting the international cooperation agenda.”
In its published statement, UNDP stated that the agreement is to improve governance frameworks, which are critical to building a resilient future for countries.
At the event, global leaders committed their efforts to funding and the implementation of digital public infrastructure through a newly established Digital Public Goods Charter (DPG), which serves as a framework to increase international cooperation on this plan.
With its DPG Charter, co-led by the DPGA and the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), the UNDP outlines a clear vision for a coordinated global approach to building a safe, trusted, and inclusive digital public infrastructure using DPGs.
“Doing so can enable countries – regardless of income levels – to transform services and service delivery for people and communities everywhere,” the statement read.
The DPG Charter, and the commitments made by global leaders, are especially relevant given the devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting climate disruption.
These challenges, compounded with the unprecedented food, energy, and financial crisis added by the war in Ukraine, are creating an urgent need for global action.
Digital Public Goods are open-source solutions used to build digital public infrastructure (DPI), enabling countries to provide better services and foster inclusive economic growth.
While the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) involves digital systems like cash transfers, digital identification, and data exchange that enable the adequate provision of essential society-wide functions. It also allows the building of resilient crisis recovery.
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