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Malaysia’s game of thrones conspiring against Ismail

SINGAPORE – Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is facing renewed pressure to call an early general election from his rivals within the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and its grassroots supporters after the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition it leads clinched an emphatic victory at the recent Johor state election.

Winning 40 out of 56 seats in the Johor state assembly, the results surpassed the BN’s own target of a two-thirds majority and follow an earlier landslide victory in Melaka’s bellwether state polls in November. But in an ironic twist, some analysts argue that the biggest winner of the March 12 Johor election wasn’t even a candidate.

Criminally convicted former prime minister Najib Razak has emerged as the BN’s star campaigner, attracting crowds on the election trail and winning plaudits from party leadership for his success as a vote-getter. The ex-premier emerged as the political face of the coalition’s resounding win in Johor, just as he did in Melaka five months ago.

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