#GE15 Explained: Here Are 4 Key Issues That Will Determine How Malaysians Will Vote

Things to consider before 19 November.

Cover image via MalaysiaNow & MySPR Semak

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Malaysia will hold a general election on 19 November in a contest that the country's ruling party hopes will strengthen its hold on power

Here are four key issues that will determine how Malaysians will vote:

1. Economy and inflation

Rising prices and economic prospects will be voters' top considerations as the government and central bank have warned of slowing growth next year.

The economy is expected to expand by 4% to 5% next year, following this year's expected 6.5% to 7% growth.

Prices have been creeping up, especially for food items.

The government has said it will trim back subsidies from 2023 due to fiscal pressures, which could result in further price increases if the new administration proceeds with the plan.

"The top issue (in the election) would be socioeconomic well-being, which is rapidly deteriorating," said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore's Institute of International Affairs.

Most of the country's ethnic-Malay majority would expect the Barisan Nasional (BN) party "to be most willing to provide handouts during these harsh times", he said.

2. Political stability

Image via Bernama

Malaysians have been frustrated with the politicking that has rocked the country since the historic election win by the opposition.

The win by the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led alliance was the first by the opposition in Malaysia's history.

Since its ouster, BN has tried to make its way back to power and has been the main source of turmoil, with infighting both within its ranks and among its alliance partners.

The country has had three prime ministers in the last two years.

Announcing the dissolution of parliament, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said political instability has had a negative impact on the economy and expressed a need to return the mandate to the people.

Analysts also expect the instability to hurt voter turnout, especially among those who traditionally vote for the opposition, due to disillusionment.

3. Corruption

Image via Warta Oriental

Several of BN's top leaders were charged after the election loss.

Meanwhile, last month, Ismail Sabri announced a wide-ranging misconduct probe against a former attorney-general who had brought graft cases against BN officials.

Former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak, along with UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and several other senior party officials, were slapped with dozens of corruption charges. All have denied wrongdoing, with Najib and Zahid describing the charges against them as politically motivated.

In August, Najib started a 12-year jail term after being convicted of corruption and money laundering in a case linked to the multibillion-dollar financial scandal of 1MDB. He still faces four other trials.

4. Race and religion

Race and religion remain divisive issues in Malaysia — a diverse, multi-ethnic country of some 32.7 million people.

Ethnic Malays, who are mainly Muslim, and indigenous groups make up about 70% of the population, while the rest is made up of mostly ethnic Chinese and Indians.

Analysts say conservative Malays, who make up the bulk of voters, are more likely to return to supporting BN after feeling sidelined by Mahathir's administration, which saw a higher number of non-Malays appointed to high-ranking cabinet positions.

The BN coalition governed Malaysia for more than 60 years, from independence until 2018.

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