Melaka state assembly dissolved, paving way for state elections

KUALA LUMPUR – The Melaka state legislative assembly was dissolved on Tuesday (Oct 5) following the collapse of the second state administration in two years, paving the way for polls to be held in the Malaysian state within two months.

However, the president of Malaysia’s ruling party Umno said that the decision on whether to hold an election was up to the Election Commission, National Security Council (NSC) and the health ministry, after taking into account the Covid-19 risk factor.

“If the pandemic, in the opinion of the health ministry and NSC, is deemed too dangerous (for the election) to be held within 60 days, as set out in the election law, then guidance can be sought as to what was done in Sarawak,” Umno president Zahid Hamidi told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Sarawak state assembly’s five-year term expired earlier this year but the overdue state election has been pushed to early next year after a localised emergency was declared due to Covid-19, preventing the need to hold an election.

Two parliamentary seats also remain vacant as by-elections were not held after an emergency was declared for the constituencies due to the pandemic.

Malaysia held a state legislative election in Sabah just over a year ago, similarly triggered by defections that caused the collapse of the state government. But the polls led to a Covid-19 outbreak which later snowballed and undid Malaysia’s initial success in containing the pandemic.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday said that he wants to avoid another Covid-19 outbreak should Melaka go to the polls.

The Melaka state government fell on Monday after four lawmakers pulled their support for Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali, depriving him of a majority. Datuk Seri Sulaiman is from Umno, and rebel leader Idris Haron, a former Melaka chief minister, is also from Umno.

Datuk Seri Idris had allied with the state opposition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), to claim a new majority in the assembly, but Mr Sulaiman had advised the state governor, Tun Ali Rustam, to dissolve the state assembly instead of changing administration for the second time in two years.

Melaka state assembly speaker Rauf Yusoh confirmed the dissolution on Tuesday, and said it was effective from Monday. His next step would be to inform the Election Commission on the dissolution, after which the commission could consult the NSC and health ministry.

Mr Sulaiman will remain as caretaker chief minister until an election is held. Under normal circumstances, an election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of a state assembly.

In March 2020, defections by four assemblymen in Melaka caused the previous PH administration to collapse.

PH won state power in Melaka for the first time in history during Malaysia’s 2018 national polls, clinching 15 seats out of the 28-seat state assembly.

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But the government fell when the federal PH administration collapsed last year, leaving PH with 11 seats.

Melaka has a population of  less then 900,000. The state had just over 400,000 voters casting their ballots in the 2018 polls.

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