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Malaysia Opposition State Calls for Polls to Foil Takeover

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, center, speaks in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Thursday, July 30, 2020.

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, center, speaks in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Thursday, July 30, 2020.

Shafie Apdal, chief minister of Sabah state on Borneo island, dissolved the state parliament to pave the way for polls after a ruling party politician claimed he had majority support of lawmakers to form a new government.

  • Associated Press KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
  • Last Updated: July 30, 2020, 1:36 PM IST
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An opposition-ruled state called Thursday for snap elections, thwarting attempts by Malaysia's ruling alliance to take over the state through defections.

Shafie Apdal, chief minister of Sabah state on Borneo island, dissolved the state parliament to pave the way for polls after a ruling party politician claimed he had majority support of lawmakers to form a new government.

The attempted takeover of Sabah, a poor but resource-rich state, was reminiscent of how Malaysia's current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took power in March after defecting from the then-reformist government to form a new Malay-centric government. Then-leader Mahathir Mohamad resigned in protest.

Muhyiddin's alliance has since taken control of many states after lawmakers defected. The opposition now controls only Sabah and two of the country's richest states, Selangor and Penang.

Shafie said he was reluctant to call for snap polls amid the coronavirus pandemic but that he had no choice amid undue harassment and bribery of state lawmakers to switch their allegiance. Some of those who supported him have defected.

They think Sabah (lawmakers) are like souvenirs, easily bought and sold…. but I think Sabahans have more integrity than that, Shafie told a news conference after obtaining the state rulers approval to dissolve the assembly.

We think its time to return the mandate to the people. We will face the challenge and let the people decide," he added. An election must be held within 60 days.

Musa Aman, who was former Sabah chief minister and a ruling party politician, has sought to meet the state ruler after claiming late Wednesday he has enough numbers to form a new government. The bid to topple Shafie's government came after Muhyiddin's government last month dropped 46 graft charges against Musa.

Sabah, along with neighboring Sarawak on Borneo, hold about a quarter of parliament seats and are seen as crucial for political leverage. The two states, which are rich in oil and timber, have a greater level of autonomy in administration, immigration and judiciary.

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