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States to watch: Perak becomes microcosm for Malaysia’s fierce election battle

States to watch: Perak becomes microcosm for Malaysia’s fierce election battle

BAGAN DATUK, Perak – Perak has become the bellwether state for Malaysia’s ongoing general election campaign, as leaders of Malaysia’s two major coalitions have opted to set their electoral base here.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chief Anwar Ibrahim are both facing tricky parliamentary battles in the northern state of Perak, and the outcome here will prove indicative of how their Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalitions perform in the rest of the country.

The third major coalition vying for federal power in this election – Perikatan Nasional (PN) – is also fielding two of its top leaders in Perak. Its deputy chairman Ahmad Faizal Azumu and secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin face uphill battles to defend their incumbencies here.

Interest in Perak heightened a week before campaigning for the election got under way last Saturday, after Datuk Seri Anwar opted to contest in the parliamentary seat of Tambun, where he will square off against Datuk Seri Faizal – a former ally in Malaysia’s 2018 polls.

Zahid is also facing a former deputy minister from PH in his long-held Bagan Datuk seat, and has seen his vote share dwindle over the past two elections.

“This could potentially be the last election where Anwar and Zahid Hamidi are leaders of their parties and coalitions,” Bower Group Asia deputy managing director Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani said.

A major swing state, Perak is one of only three states holding simultaneous state legislative assembly elections along with the parliamentary elections, meaning control of the state government is also up for grabs. The state has 24 out of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats. This is the second-largest number of parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia, and fourth-largest nationwide.

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