Paris / AFP
Malaysiaâ€™s Sarawak state will dissolve its assembly on April 11, paving the way for elections that are seen as a test of support for Prime Minister NajibRazak.
The Election Commission will fix the nomination and polling days after the assembly is dissolved, the New Straits Times newspaper said on Twitter, citing Chief Minister AdenanSatem. An election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution.
Najib is counting on Adenanâ€™s popularity to retain support for the BarisanNasional coalition in the Sarawak poll. The premier is embroiled in a funding scandal that has led opposition politicians to call for his resignation, and which risks eroding support for the coalition that has been in power federally since independence in 1957. That alliance won re-election in 2013 with its narrowest margin yet, and lost the popular vote for the first time.
The premier has denied any wrongdoing amid questions over $681 million that appeared in his accounts before the 2013 election, money the government said was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.
“Najib needs a strong win in Sarawak to build momentum for the next general election,” said James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania. “Adenan can take full credit for Sarawak but of course Najib will put in a lot of appearances because this is a sureâ€ win for BarisanNasional.
Oil Fields, Rainforests
Sarawak, with its oil fields, hydroelectric dams and rainforests, was Malaysiaâ€™s third biggest contributor by state or federal territory to gross domestic product in 2014, accounting for about a 10th of output.
The result of the state polls is key in part because the assemblyâ€™s composition determines if the chief minister is an ally to Najib.A study by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak showed Adenanâ€™s popularity rose to about 84 percent in January from 74 percent in June, state news service Bernama reported this month, citing Deputy Prime Minister ZahidHamidi.
BarisanNasional lost eight seats in the last Sarawak state poll in 2011. The state has 31 federal seats of which BarisanNasional holds 25.