Malaysians vote in tightly contested election

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Malaysians headed to the polls on Saturday with jailed ex-leader Najib Razak’s graft-tainted party seeking to cement its grip on power in a race analysts say is too close to call.

About 21 million registered voters are expected to troop to polling centres throughout the day amid fears heavy monsoon rains could disrupt the polls in certain areas.

The two governments that succeeded UMNO, however, were plagued by infighting, allowing the party to creep back into power last year. Now, UMNO will be seeking a stronger mandate in an election called ten months ahead of schedule.

With age catching up, this election could be Anwar’s last chance to fulfil a 20-year dream to lead Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy.

UMNO remains hobbled by corruption allegations. Najib, who was at the centre of the 1MDB scandal, is currently serving a 12-year jail term.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 97, and another ex-leader Muhyiddin Yassin, 75, head two other coalitions contesting the elections.

– ‘Fragmented political landscape’ –

Malaysians will choose from a record 945 candidates across the largely Muslim nation, which also includes the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo island.

The number of eligible voters has risen from 18 million four years ago to more than 21 million after the voting age was lowered in 2021.

The majority of voters live in rural areas, where patronage politics continues to hold sway.

“Unless Pakatan Harapan can clinch an outright parliamentary majority… the dominant UMNO party or one of the Malay Muslim parties would get to form a coalition government,” Oh told AFP.

The election comes as Malaysians face soaring food prices, and parts of the country continue to be battered by flash floods due to monsoon rains.

Originally published as Malaysians vote in tightly contested election


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