Malaysia’s leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition may not contest the upcoming by-election in the northern state of Penang.
Najib said the final decision would be made after a meeting between UMNO and among its coalition partners at the end of the month.
"No, we are not afraid of losing to them but it is a sheer waste of public funds," the Sunday Star cited him as saying.
A senior member of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party resigned Thursday following an investigation into alleged corruption.
Mohamad Fairus Khairuddin, who was the deputy chief minister in Penang and a member of the state parliament, announced his resignation, saying his move will "allow me the space to clear my name".
Commentators have opined that if UMNO does make the decision not to contest the state of Penang, it will be less to do with cost-saving, and more likely to be motivated by a desire to avoid a likely BN loss.
The Penanti seat in Penang is in Anwar territory, and UMNO may be eager to avoid losing to the Pakatan Rakyat juggernaut; which would be its fifth consecutive by-election victory in Peninsular Malaysia against BN politicians., following Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.
Voices from within UMNO have decried the possibility of BN not contending the seat, most notably in the person of former prime minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who has recently returned to UMNO.
“If it (the Penanti state constituency) was in an UMNO area, I am sure that we will contest. However, since it is in an Opposition area, we do not want to contest”, Mahathir said. “But if we wait to contest only in UMNO areas, then there would not be any UMNO areas and we would not have to contest anywhere.”
In his speech on Sunday, Dr Mahathir said that during his time as Prime Minister, UMNO had never withdrawn from any election or by-election, even if it was held in Kelantan, a PAS stronghold.
“Winning or losing is a separate matter; however, if we do not contest then the other party has already won,” he said.
Bernama, BN Should Contest In Penanti, Says Mahathir , 19 April 2009, http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newspolitic.php?id=405238
AFP, Malaysia PM says by-elections waste of funds , 19 April 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gin9yuRpJQX8dKHr2Nazj...
The Malaysian Insider, The Penanti doublespeak, 18 April 2009, http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/breaking-views/2374...
Malaysia Today, It’s the Economy, Stupid!, 18 April 2009, http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/20768/1/