Malaysia state elections: Four faces to watch on the comeback trail

All eyes are on the following four leaders to see if they will throw their hats into the ring.

Shannon Teoh

Shannon Teoh

The Straits Times



June 22, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – The upcoming state polls are an opportunity for Malaysia’s second-line party leaders to bounce back from their losses in the November 2022 general election. All eyes are on the following four leaders to see if they will throw their hats into the ring.

Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, 58

Having relinquished the chief ministership of Selangor to join the federal Cabinet from 2018 to 2022, the former senior minister for the economy could make a return to run Malaysia’s richest state if the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) achieves a surprise win in the Pakatan Harapan stronghold.

Although Mr Azmin has expressed his desire to retire from front-line politics, PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin has insisted that he lead the charge in Selangor.

The state is now controlled by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), in which Mr Azmin served as deputy president for a decade before joining Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in 2020.

Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz, 49


After catapulting to the highest echelons of power as finance minister in the two previous administrations, the high-profile former CIMB chief executive from Umno remains in the Cabinet under the Anwar unity government, in charge of international trade and investment.

Speculation that he will bid to be Selangor chief minister has gone on for most of 2023 so far, after he failed to capture the Kuala Selangor parliamentary ward in last November’s general election. This meant he had to be reappointed for a three-year term in the Senate and will have to quit the Cabinet in 2025.

Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, 47


His steady rise through Umno’s ranks over the past two decades ended with a sudden sacking in January for “violating party discipline” that left him homeless in Malaysia’s fluid political landscape.

Mr Khairy had served in several ministries such as youth and sports; science, technology and innovation; and health. The highlight of his political career was being the lead minister for the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme in 2021.

While his highest official position in Umno was youth chief – a traditional stepping stone towards the top – the broad influence he had in the party saw him pushing Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, who is now Deputy Premier, to the bitter end in 2018’s hard-fought presidential race.

Talk of being made PN’s candidate for chief minister of either Negeri Sembilan or Selangor has swirled since his sacking from Umno. He lost in Sungai Buloh in the general election after being moved out of Rembau, where he served as MP for three terms.

Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar, 42


The Prime Minister’s charismatic daughter has been a three-term MP. During most of that period, she was also PKR vice-president.

Dubbed Puteri Reformasi (Princess of Reforms) as the torchbearer of the reform movement while her father spent two stints in jail, Ms Nurul shockingly lost the Permatang Pauh ward last November, after four decades of control by the Anwar family.

While she is now co-chair of the secretariat to a panel advising Datuk Seri Anwar as finance minister, she has never served in the executive of either the federal or state government.

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