Malaysia: Polling begins for general elections

  • Malaysia: Polling begins for general elections

Malaysia: Polling begins for general elections

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Malaysians went to the polls Wednesday in one of the country´s closest ever elections which pits scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak against his one-time mentor, 92-year-old former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad.

An unpopular goods and services tax, introduced by Mr Najib in 2015 to boost government revenue as Malaysia's oil wealth dwindles, also dented support for the ruling coalition.

However, under Malaysia's first-past-the-post system, the party or alliance with the majority of seats in the 222-member parliament wins.

Australian National University associate professor Ross Tapsell, who follows Malaysian politics closely, said he believed the contest had tightened so much it was impossible to predict the result.

The 15 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

For the ruling coalition, that would be about 10 points lower than it achieved at the last election in 2013.

Lim Kit Siang - a leader of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a key party in the opposition alliance - said the ruling coalition´s "dirty tricks are at work today with mobile telephones of key DAP leaders throughout the country sabotaged and disabled by endless incoming calls from the United States".

People swarmed to polling stations in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and around the country, which have been decorated with campaign posters and flags bearing the symbols of various political parties. "We need a visionary to lead Malaysia".

As he left in a vehicle, Mahathir said, "I'm quite confident by the way people (have) come". He said the incidents are isolated and the commission will investigate.

The survey by independent pollster Merdeka Centre showed BN's estimated share of the popular vote had slipped to 37.3 per cent in peninsular Malaysia from 40.3 per cent one week earlier. A simple majority of 112 parliament seats will produce a victor.

The government recently passed a law redrawing election boundaries, leading to accusations that it had gerrymandered constituencies to ensure they were filled by Malay Muslims, who are traditionally BN supporters.

In Langkawi, the island that Dr Mahathir developed into a tourism hub during his 22 years in power, the former premier insisted that Malaysia would have been a developed nation by 2020 were it not for Mr Najib's nine years at the helm. The rest of the seats are too close to call, according to the poll.

The BN led by incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak is betting on generous handouts and the "proven track record" of the government to seek a third term.

At least two government ministers posted photos of their phones, showing they had received numerous calls from overseas, while Najib in a tweet condemned the "spam call tactic" which he said had affected many BN leaders.

Anwar once served as Mahathir's deputy before he was sacked in 1998 in a bitter political feud, and later jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.

Just prior to calling the poll, Najib passed new "fake news" laws that critics say have been created to curtail discussion of his involvement in the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund scandal. Voters have been angered by a corruption scandal at a state investment fund set up Najib and increased taxation.

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