Najib's Barisan Nasional gains control of Malacca with landslide victory after losing it briefly in 2018

A precursor for its revival ahead of the country's 2023 general election.

Faris Alfiq | November 22, 2021, 05:50 PM

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The UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won the Malaccan polls with a landslide victory, snatching 21 of the 28 seats contested on Nov. 20, Malaysiakini reported.

BN's rival political blocs contesting in the state election, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN), managed to clinch five and two seats respectively.

The state election also saw the lowest voter turnout in recent polls in Malaysia, Malay Mail reported, with only 65.85 per cent of eligible voters casting their votes.

What led to the election?

Prior to the election, a PN-BN state government was administering Malacca. This was until four assemblymen, including former chief minister Idris Haron, declared no confidence in Sulaiman Ali to act as the state's chief minister.

Malacca's Governor Ali Rustam consented to the dissolution of the state assembly on Oct. 5, and according to the law, an election must be held within 60 days from the dissolution, Malay Mail reported.

After 12 days of campaigning under strict Covid-19 restrictions, Malaccans headed to the polling booths on Nov. 20 to cast their votes.

At 8.39pm on the same day, BN declared victory once they secured a simple majority with 19 seats, Free Malaysia Today reported.

Overall, the BN coalition won 21 of the 28 seats contested, with UMNO clinching 18 seats, MCA winning two seats, and MIC winning a single seat.

Najib leading BN

Malaysian media and political pundits have noted that former prime minister Najib Razak was very active in anchoring his party in the polls, though he was not contesting for any seats.

Najib even postponed his trip to Singapore to be with his daughter, supposedly due to his party's campaign in Malacca.

Awang Azman Awang Pawzi, a professor from Universiti Malaya, told The Vibes that if Najib was tasked to lead BN in the Malaccan polls, it was because of his experience in leading both the country and the party.

Awang opined that Najib's social media presence would influence voters to vote for UMNO.

"If indeed Najib is leading, it would be because he has influence in social media and may be able to pull in voters," Awang said.

Another commentator, Azmi Hassan, opined that the person who has high political influence among the party members is the one who should lead UMNO, and effectively BN, during the election.

Nonetheless, both noted that based on hierarchy, it should be UMNO's second-in-charge, Mohamad Hasan, leading the party. 

Still, the decision was most likely based on who has the most clout.

James Chin, a political analyst from the University of Tasmania, told Bloomberg that Najib was "the lead UMNO person in Malacca", making him one of the biggest winner.

"This will increase his political standing in UMNO and will make it much harder for Ismail Sabri to take action against him," Chin added.

Najib "slept well"

In the morning after the election's result was announced, Najib took to Facebook to thank voters in Malacca.

"I slept very well last night after news of the victory broke," he said in his video.

"The people and voters of Malacca have given a very big victory to BN."

He said that the results showed people's trust and faith in BN.

"I am sure the new government will bring Malacca to peace, stability, and even greater prosperity," he added.

According to Malay Mail, BN's focus on stability and prosperity resonated with voters who prefer a "level-headed" leader, referring to Sulaiman as their chief minister.

Precursor for UMNO's return

UMNO's win under the BN coalition would bolster the party's return to power in the next general election slated to take place by 2023.

Chin opined that "if this trend continues to the 15th general election, then UMNO will be back in the federal government". 

UMNO has been in power since Malaysia's independence in 1957, but it was toppled in the 2018 election by PH led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed.

The party rose to dominance again in 2021 when Ismail Sabri became the country's ninth prime minister.

Winners and losers

As the spotlight shines on Najib, UMNO and BN as the biggest winners of the poll, Malaysiakini described opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, PAS leader Hadi Awang and PH's Idris Haron as the biggest losers.

For Anwar, the PKR was thoroughly defeated in the polls.

Although Anwar had previously claimed that he had the majority of MPs backing him to be Malaysia's prime minister, the latest election result proved that he was unable to gather the support of the people on the ground, Malaysiakini wrote.

Anwar's command of power will be further tested during the upcoming leadership election.

During the state election, PAS broke their partnership with UMNO and fielded under PN's banner, Malay Mail reported.

According to Malaysiakini, as PAS did not secure a single seat during the state election, the party would be in a "weaker position" to renegotiate an alliance with UMNO in the future.

The state election would not have taken place if Idris Haron had not withdrawn his support for Sulaiman to stay as Malacca's chief minister.

According to Malaysiakini, Idris withdrew his support so he could try and become Malacca's chief minister again.

But the possibility was lost when he got voted out of his constituency in Asahan.

With its victory, UMNO's Fairul Nizam Roslan has also replaced Idris with a considerable margin of 3,000 votes.

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Top image via Najib Razak/Facebook