Malaysian opposition faces hurdle in bid for new by-elections


(Bloomberg) — A Malaysian opposition party’s attempt to force six more by-elections has hit a stumbling block, leaving stability in the prime minister’s court Anwar Ibrahimcoalition government.

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The Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament has ruled that six former Bersatu members will be allowed to keep their seats, the Bersatu president said Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday. The decision violates the country’s anti-party hopping law and Bersatu will consult legal experts on its next move, he said at a briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian law provides for the possibility of recall elections if a member of parliament changes party. However, this does not apply to persons who are expelled.

Bersatu’s six lawmakers said last week that they had been expelled from the party and should keep their seats. Bersatu, however, insisted that the lawmakers were “no longer members” rather than being expelled.

The chairman’s decision is a positive development for Anwar, whose party suffered a huge defeat in a by-election on Saturday. More polls could distract the prime minister from pushing through unpopular reforms, such as cutting fuel subsidies to meet the budget deficit.

Bersatu amended its constitution in March to cancel the membership of those who defected following the decision of six of its lawmakers to openly support Anwar and his government.

The party can take the matter to court if it is found that the speaker’s decision was not in accordance with the law, Muhyiddin said. “Bersatu’s interpretation of this matter is final and cannot be challenged, challenged, revised, annulled or questioned,” he said.

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