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Malaysia PM’s alliance wins key election test amid rise in youth voters

Randy Mancini 4 Mar 12
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves to members of the media before departing for a meeting with the King, in Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves to members of the media before departing for a meeting with the King, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 19, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

March 12, 2022

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A coalition led by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Saturday scored a landslide victory in a state election seen as a key test for national polls, after voting reforms that saw a large influx of young and first-time voters.

The convincing win in southern Johor state for a coalition led by Ismail Sabri’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) came ahead of a general election that could be called as early as July.

Malaysia has lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 and allowed automatic voter registration, adding 5.8 million people to the electoral roll – a 40% increase, with new voters making up about a third of those registered in Johor.

On Saturday, the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional alliance secured 40 of 56 Johor state legislature seats, crushing a fractured group of rival parties.

“This result was beyond our expectations… for us, this is a gift for the people of Johor,” UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a live-streamed victory speech.

Since 2018, Malaysia has had three prime ministers and seen the collapse of two governments and the splintering of two major opposing coalitions, amid protracted political turmoil.

Johor’s election was the country’s most divided race yet, with two ruling government coalitions, an opposition alliance, and several independent parties and candidates joining the fray.

MUDA, a youth and reforms-based party contesting its maiden election in Johor, won just one of the seven seats it contested. But it said the youth vote propelled it to second-place finishes in two constituencies.

“Though we are a new party and an underdog, we will work hard to bring a new form of politics in Johor and across Malaysia,” MUDA president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Ros Russell)