Malaysia to hold election after ‘coronavirus is over’

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin poses for a picture at the parliament, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia November 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Malaysia to hold election after ‘coronavirus is over’

  • Muhyiddin’s eight-month-old administration has clung on with a two-seat majority in parliament
  • Malaysia is facing a new wave of coronavirus infections

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will hold a general election when the novel coronavirus pandemic is over, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Saturday, shortly after he averted a showdown by winning parliamentary support for his administration’s budget.
Parliament passed the largest-ever budget by a voice vote on Thursday despite weeks of threats by the opposition and some of Muhyiddin’s allies to derail the government’s 2021 spending plan, which could have triggered a crisis.
“God willing, when COVID-19 is over, we will hold a general election,” Muhyiddin said in a speech at a virtual annual general meeting of his Bersatu party.
“We will return the mandate to the people and leave it to them to choose which government they want.”
Muhyiddin’s eight-month-old administration has clung on with a two-seat majority in parliament, managing to fend off a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and contain growing dissent in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the largest bloc in his coalition.
Muhyiddin said he met UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi this week and they agreed to mend ties between their parties and avoid competing against each other when an election is called.
“I know the people are fed up with the unending politicking. The people want political leaders to help them, not constantly fight for power,” Muhyiddin said.
Malaysia is facing a new wave of coronavirus infections, with cumulative cases rising more than four-fold since September to more than 60,000 as of Friday. 


Dutch government collapses over benefits scandal

Updated 15 January 2021

Dutch government collapses over benefits scandal

  • Parents being targeted for investigation because they had dual nationality also underscored long-standing criticisms of systemic racism in the Netherlands
  • The row threatens to leave the Netherlands without a government in the midst of a surge in cases of a new Covid-19 variant

THE HAGUE: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government resigned on Friday over a child benefits scandal, media reported, threatening political turmoil as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of parents were wrongly accused by Dutch authorities of fraudulently claiming child allowance, with many of them forced to pay back large amounts of money and ending up in financial ruin.
The fact that some parents were targeted for investigation by tax officials because they had dual nationality also underscored long-standing criticisms of systemic racism in the Netherlands.
Dutch media said Rutte was due to give a statement at 1315 GMT about the resignation of his four-party coalition cabinet, which comes just two months before the Netherlands is due to hold a general election on March 17.
A hard-hitting parliamentary investigation in December said civil servants cut off benefits to thousands of families wrongly accused of fraud between 2013 and 2019.
The row threatens to leave the Netherlands without a government in the midst of a surge in cases of a new Covid-19 variant that first emerged in Britain.
Rutte had opposed the cabinet’s resignation, saying the country needs leadership during the pandemic.
He had however said that if it resigned he could be authorized to lead a caretaker government until elections — in which polls say his Freedom and Democracy Party would likely come first.
Other parties in the coalition had pushed for the government to take responsibility for the scandal, which Dutch media said some 26,000 people had been affected.
They could have also faced a confidence vote in parliament next week.
Pressure mounted on the government after opposition Labour party chief Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in Rutte’s previous cabinet, resigned on Thursday over the scandal.
Victims also lodged a legal complaint Tuesday against three serving ministers and two former ministers including Asscher.
Many were required to pay back benefits totalling tens of thousands of euros (dollars).
Tax officials were also revealed to have carried out “racial profiling” of 11,00 people based on their dual nationality, including some of those hit by the false benefit fraud accusations.
The Dutch government announced at least 30,000 euros in compensation for each parent who was wrongly accused but it has not been enough to silence the growing clamour over the scandal.
Rutte has led three coalition governments since 2010, most recently winning elections in 2017 despite strong opposition from far-right leader Geert Wilders.
Polls say he is likely to win a fourth term in the next election, with public opinion still largely backing his handling of the coronavirus crisis.