Looking back on 2019’s biggest political stories

The Umno-PAS political charter, signed last month, formalised cooperation between the country’s two largest Malay-Muslim parties.

PETALING JAYA: Perhaps few political events can match the impact of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) historic victory in the 14th general election last year, but these developments certainly created a buzz.

Umno-PAS charter

Umno and PAS signed a historic political charter in November, formalising cooperation between the country’s two largest Malay-Muslim parties after decades of animosity. Observers believe the alliance poses a strong challenge to the PH-led government, which was built on the promise of reforms and multicultural engagement.

BN racks up by-election wins

Barisan Nasional (BN) regained its swagger with a resounding victory at the Tanjung Piai by-election in November, taking back the seat from PH just 18 months after losing it by a narrow margin at GE14.

BN’s Wee Jeck Seng won the seat with a commanding 15,086 majority, marking BN’s fourth by-election victory in 2019 after the coalition’s triumphs in the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat and the state assembly seats of Semenyih and Rantau.

‘Bossku’ drives Najib’s popularity

Former prime minister Najib Razak’s “Bossku” moniker gained momentum on social media in the first half of the year, making his efforts to stay politically relevant a proverbial thorn in the side of the PH government. His journeys to locations across the country to campaign for BN were met with huge support despite the charges of graft and abuse of power against him.

Two Wees from MCA in Parliament

The sudden death of PPBM’s Mohamed Farid Md Rafik in September created a vacancy in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat in Johor. BN candidate Wee Jeck Seng of MCA went on to win the by-election in November, giving MCA two MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, with MCA president Wee Ka Siong representing Ayer Hitam. Jeck Seng was previously a two-term Tanjung Piai MP and one-term Pekan Nanas assemblyman.

Fresh allegations against Anwar

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim was accused of sexual assault by former aide Muhammed Yusoff Rawther in early December. The former deputy prime minister has denied the allegations. The police have called in both parties to give their statements about the alleged assault which Yusoff claims happened in Anwar’s house last year. Anwar was convicted of sodomy in 2014 but received a royal pardon in 2018 after the general election.

Azmin accused of gay sex

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali was embroiled in a sex scandal in June when a video emerged of him supposedly in bed with former PKR Santubong Youth leader Haziq Aziz. While Haziq confessed to being one of the two men in the video, Azmin, who is PKR deputy president, vehemently denied the allegations, saying the video was released to tarnish his image and ruin his political career.

Civil war in PKR

PKR’s national congress was marred by a series of brawls between two youth factions in the party, made worse when deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali and vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin walked out with hundreds of other members during the congress over delegate speeches which they described as “provocative”.

Tian Chua can contest in elections again

The Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled in November that PKR vice-president Tian Chua could stand as a candidate in future elections, more than a year after he was barred from defending his Batu parliamentary seat. While Tian Chua was disqualified from contesting in GE14 because of a RM2,000 court fine for a charge of insulting a policeman, he endorsed the candidacy of P Prabakaran for the Batu seat.

Rafizi announces exit from politics

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli announced his exit from politics earlier this month to focus on his start-up company which aims to address unemployment through artificial intelligence. He had been acquitted and discharged by the Shah Alam High Court which overturned his conviction on a charge of revealing details of bank accounts related to the National Feedlot Corporation and its chairman, Salleh Ismail.

PPBM spreads wings to Sabah

In April, Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched PPBM in Sabah, which it had avoided in GE14, despite the concerns of PH’s Sabah-based ally Warisan. More than 30,000 people thronged the venue where Sabah PPBM was launched, including a number of Sabah opposition leaders. Warisan leaders were visibly absent.