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Najib sets up poll thriller

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Anil Netto looks ahead at what could be the closest Malaysian general election ever – one which is however shrouded by concerns over the integrity of the electoral process.

najib and anwar

Malaysians are gearing up for what are expected to be the most closely contested general elections in the country’s history. Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the dissolution of parliament on 3 April, ending nearly two years of speculation over when the polls would be held. The Election Commission meets this week to set a date for polls, which must be held within 60 days.

Najib’s earlier reluctance to call an election likely reflects his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s hesitation faced with the resurgent challenge of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition coalition. Parliament’s current five-year term expires on April 28; no previous premier has ever dissolved the legislature so close to the end of its term.

Some political analysts believe the opposition is poised to make historic gains, or even win the election outright. PR won five of 13 national states at the 2008 general election, notching nearly 47% of the popular vote for federal level parliamentary seats. The result denied the BN a two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to change the constitutional and represented the BN’s worst yet electoral showing.

The then prime minister Abdullah Badawi took responsibility for the slippage and handed the premiership to Najib the following year. Najib, who has not yet faced the electorate as BN’s leader, has fared well in opinion surveys, despite a significant erosion in public perceptions of the wider BN coalition and its associated politicians. A Merdeka Centre poll from February showed that popular support for the ruling coalition had fallen below 50%.

Full article in Asia Times Online

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