KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has conceded that he is in a dilemma over whether the 15th general election (GE15) should be held this year or in 2023, in addition to ensuring a win for his party Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

The prime minister pointed that solving domestic issues such as the Ministry of Defence’s littoral combat ship (LCS) scandal — which implicated members of his party — and the implementation of the minimum wage take precedent over the election, suggesting that the date of GE15 may yet be pushed further.

“There’s a lot to be resolved, the issues I mentioned earlier in terms of the economy, income, jobs, even between January and now, we’ve provided 400,000 jobs for the people, but in terms of wages, the RM1,500, is it suitable or does it need to be increased again because half say it’s not enough. So many issues that have not been resolved.

“This new LCS issue, we don’t know what kind of effect it will have. We don’t know what will happen two months from now, and that’s just the latest issue. These things could cause our general elections to happen later, solving these issues,” he told the Malaysian media in a recent interview.


On the flipside, Ismail Sabri said he is also considering the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) warning that economic growth will not be as strong in 2023, and therefore it would be unwise to hold elections during an economic recession.

“One more thing we have to consider is the economic uncertainty next year. Pak Jokowi told me, PM Lee also told me. Next year is not going to be a good year, economically,” he said, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“IMF is also saying growth is going to go down and so if we wait, and the economy gets worse, then it would not be the right time for an election. It may have to happen soon,” he said.


Facing pressure from members of his own party to hold a snap election on the back of victories in the Johor, Sarawak and Melaka state elections, Ismail Sabri said only the prime minister has the prerogative to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament and call for GE15.

Even then, the decision would be privy to the Agong, he said.

“Well, they’ve given their point of view. But the Top Five always discuss issues together, behind closed doors. Just us five. So each one of them has given their point of view, but bottom line is that they all understand that it is only the prime minister that can request dissolution from the Agong.

“But that’s the limit of the prime minister’s power, only to ask for dissolution. The Agong has the power to agree or not. The decision is in the Agong’s hand,” he said.

The “Top Five” refers to Umno’s top leadership, which included party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamadi, deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, and vice-presidents Ismail Sabri, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid and Datuk Seri Khalid Nordin.

He also shot down claims that BN’s wins in the state elections are clear signs that the coalition would win at GE15, calling the general and state elections as completely different things.

“In Johor, we won maybe because of a reason. At the time, not many people came out to vote. But if we hold GE15, people will come out and vote. To some, maybe at the state level, it’s not wrong to assume that we would win. But on a federal level, it’s completely different.

“Covid-19 or not, people will come out and vote to make sure their party forms the next government. That’s why I said that we cannot use our wins in Melaka and Johor as a benchmark,” he said.

Last night, Ismail Sabri told a televised address that he will only call for an election when the country is “ready”, and there should be no rush because Malaysians should be given space to vote for who they think should be their government so the country will not rush into it.

This comes as Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday repeated his call for GE15 to be held as soon as possible, saying that BN and Umno risked losing if it was held later.

He claimed that it was prime time to hold the election and BN was at its strongest, and any delay was giving the opposition more time to gather ammunition and attack the government.