Malaysia's ruling coalition takes slight lead in election count

Charlene Craig
May 10, 2018

On Wednesday morning, long queues were seen in many polling centers, which led some people to call for voting time extension.

Unless he improves on that tally, Najib could come under pressure within his United Malays National Organisation party to stand aside ahead of the next election, analysts say.

Meanwhile, his main challenger, Mahathir quit his old party and gave the opposition a boost when he forged an alliance with them.

Critics have accused BN of gerrymandering with a redrawing of electoral boundaries that created constituencies more likely to back them, while activists have alleged numerous irregularities in the electoral roll. Rights groups said a recently passed law against "fake news" was meant to stifle criticism and debate.

Nawab, the scholar, said there was a small chance that neither BN nor the opposition secures a majority, which would bring a "hung parliament" and potentially put the Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) in the position of kingmaker. "It would be a further sign of the region's democratic decline".

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Mahathir, prime minister for 22 years until 2003, emerged from political retirement and joined the opposition in an attempt to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak, his former protege, after a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state investment fund 1MDB set up by Najib.

The U.S. Justice Department says $4.5 billion was looted from 1MBD, the investment fund, by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib's bank account. Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the case. An unpopular goods and services tax, introduced by Najib in 2015 to boost government revenue as Malaysia's oil wealth dwindles, has also dented support for the ruling coalition.

He has nevertheless successfully tapped into rising anger among Malays in rural areas and many have swung behind his new Bersatu party, switching from UMNO. It would, however, seek to restore the rule of law and prosecute those who had breached it, he said. The focus is on how many votes he could take away from the ruling parties.

Reflecting Malaysia's racial divides, Yap said the Chinese party in the ruling coalition had been subservient to Najib's Malay party and failed to defend the rights of the country's ethnic Chinese minority.

Najib, who is defending the Pekan parliamentary seat, believed that the people will not vote based on slander or mere emotions.

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"It's not been that tense, but it has been quite vicious in the content of the personal attacks which doesn't reflect a mature democracy", he said, according to aljazeera.com.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, SUHAKAM, on Tuesday urged the election panel to avoid actions seen as partisan and selective. He said Thursday and Friday would be public holidays, another slap for Najib, who on election eve had promised public holidays if his coalition won.

Ballot counting in the Malaysian election started on Wednesday afternoon as polling stations closed to voters nationwide at 5 p.m. local time (0900 GMT).

People are allowed to pass into Malaysia at only two of the eight checkpoints along the border at that location, Thai authorities say.

About 15 million Malaysians were eligible to vote for both state and federal candidates.

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The opposition has been reinvigorated by Mahathir after fracturing in 2015 when its most charismatic figure, Anwar Ibrahim, was imprisoned on charges of sodomy in a case he and his supporters said was manufactured by the government to crush the opposition.

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