Malaysia Opposition Sends Note to Parliament, Seeks By-Elections

(Bloomberg) -- A Malaysian opposition party is seeking by-elections in six parliamentary constituencies held by its former members in a move that risks support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s planned reforms.

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The pro-Malay Bersatu party submitted a notice to parliament on Thursday informing that the six lawmakers were no longer party members, according to its chief whip Ronald Kiandee. That leaves Parliament Speaker Johari Abdul no choice but to declare their parliament seats vacant, and to inform the Election Commission so that polls can be held, Kiandee said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Fresh by-elections may distract the government from its plans to follow up the recent targeted diesel assistance with efforts to unwind blanket subsidies on RON95 to reduce Malaysia’s deficit gap. While Anwar commands a two-third majority in parliament, his approval ratings have taken a hit amid concerns over the economy.

The notice is a culmination of Bersatu’s months-long efforts to trigger new polls after its lawmakers openly backed Anwar. Malaysia’s landmark anti-party hopping legislation doesn’t apply to MPs who are expelled from their party, forcing Bersatu to amend its party constitution in order to void the memberships of those who defect.

The six parliament seats affected are Jeli and Gua Musang in the opposition controlled Kelantan state, Bukit Gantang and Kuala Kangsar in Perak state, Tanjong Karang in Malaysia’s wealthiest state of Selangor, and Labuan.

Parliament Speaker Johari did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

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