Malaysian Opposition Faces Hurdle in Bid for Fresh By-Elections

(Bloomberg) -- A Malaysian opposition party’s attempt to force six more by-elections has hit a stumbling block, ensuring stability for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition government.

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Malaysia’s parliament speaker ruled that six former Bersatu members can keep their seats, according to Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday. The decision goes against the country’s anti-party hopping legislation and Bersatu will consult with legal experts on its next move, he said in a briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s legislation makes provisions for recall elections should a lawmaker switch parties, though this doesn’t apply to those who are expelled.

The six parliamentarians from Bersatu said last week they had been sacked from the party and should be allowed to keep their seats. Bersatu, on the other hand, maintained that the lawmakers had “ceased to be members” rather than expelled.

The speaker’s decision is a positive development for Anwar, whose party suffered a massive defeat in a by-election on Saturday. More polls would risk distracting the prime minister from implementing unpopular reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies to meet the budget deficit target.

Bersatu amended its constitution in March to void the memberships of those who defected following the move by six of its lawmakers to openly back Anwar and his government.

The party may take the matter to court if it is found that the speaker’s decision didn’t adhere to the law, said Muhyiddin. “Bersatu’s interpretation of this matter is final and cannot be challenged, appealed, reviewed, canceled or questioned,” he said.

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