PM meets King after raising prospect of early polls

Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge

Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 6): The prospect of an early election loomed in Malaysia as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he could propose a date for the dissolution of Parliament during a regular meeting on Thursday with the country's monarch, state media said.

An election is not due until September 2023, but Ismail has been under pressure from some factions of his ruling coalition to hold the vote earlier for a stronger mandate and due to infighting.

If he dissolves Parliament soon, the election would come just as the economy starts to feel the pinch of rising costs and a global slowdown. It would also coincide with the year-end monsoon season and floods, which could hurt voter turnout.

Ismail met the monarch at the national palace at 4pm and left about 45 minutes later.

His office and the palace did not have an immediate comment on what happened at the meeting.

Before the meeting, Ismail said he would mainly discuss Cabinet matters with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, and that a date for dissolution would be submitted only if there was time, the Bernama news agency said.

"Still unsure whether it will be brought up. If it takes too long to discuss Cabinet issues, it will be about Cabinet only," Ismail Sabri said.

The premier's spokesperson had said earlier that the meeting between the two was a "routine", weekly meeting.

Ismail Sabri's government is set to present its Budget 2023 in Parliament on Friday, the finance ministry has said, putting to rest some speculation that a dissolution could be announced before that.

An election must be held within 60 days of dissolution.

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 the dissolution of Parliament.

Mixed views in ruling coalition

Last week, Ismail Sabri's party, Umno, which is the biggest in the ruling coalition, said the premier would seek the King's consent to dissolve Parliament this year, prompting speculation that Ismail Sabri could call polls any day.

However, Ismail Sabri's coalition is not unanimous on the timing of an election.

Many alliance partners have cited economic woes, such as the rising cost of living and the anticipated year-end floods, as reasons not to hold polls this year.

Malaysia was hit late last year by unusually heavy rain and floods that caused damage of about RM6 billion.

Some Cabinet ministers have written to the monarch this week, asking him not to hold election this year due to flood risks, domestic media said.