Malaysian PM Anwar’s Ruling Bloc Retains Seat in By-Election

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s ruling coalition retained its seat in a by-election in the country’s richest state on Saturday, a boost for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim as he embarks on economic reforms.

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Candidate Pang Sock Tao from the Democratic Action Party — the biggest group in Anwar’s unity government — won about 57% of the votes in a four-way fight in the Kuala Kubu Baharu district of Selangor state. That represents an increase of almost three basis points on the party’s share of the vote in the previous election a year ago.

The state-level victory will embolden the prime minister in his efforts to carry out reforms to boost the country’s coffers and investor confidence, including a long-promised plan to unwind blanket fuel subsidies. Malaysia, whose A3 credit score at Moody’s Ratings is the highest among peers in developing Southeast Asia, needs to attract foreign investment in high-value industries to support economic expansion.

“The victory is a clear signal for the unity government to continue working hard to attract investment and heal and strengthen the national economy,” Anwar said in a Facebook post Saturday.

The results suggest that support for both Anwar’s coalition and for the rival Perikatan Nasional is stable, according to Dr Syaza Farhana Mohamad Shukri, an associate professor of political science at the International Islamic University Malaysia. “Neither are really getting new voters or on-the-fence voters excited,” she said.

The status quo is a welcome result for Anwar, whose government was rocked by religious tensions last month and is seeing rising pessimism among the population. His alliance was able to shrug off Perikatan Nasional’s attempt to boost its chances by fielding a Malay candidate to appeal to the ethnic majority.

Pang’s victory has no direct impact on the composition of the Malaysian parliament, where Anwar has commanded a majority since rising to power in late 2022. The snap polls for the Selangor state assembly seat was held after the previous representative died in March.

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