Malaysians vote in crucial local elections

Kuala Lumpur, May 7 (IANS) Voters in Malaysia’s eastern Sawarak state cast their ballots on Saturday in what might be a weathervane of the next general election.

More than one million eligible will vote in 1,754 polling stations across the state on North Borneo, Xinhua news agency reported.

The ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) is widely expected to retain the state government. Its leaders have targeted 70 out of the total 82 seats in the state legislation. BN candidates have already won two seats uncontested.

Leaders from both the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, as well as oppositions have actively campaigned in Sarawak ahead of the polling day.

However, the election was overshadowed following a helicopter carrying senior government officials went missing on Thursday. A deputy minister was confirmed killed in the accident.

Sarawak retained a degree of autonomy since it joined Malaysia in 1963 and is the only state that holds its state legislative elections separately from the general election.

The candidates nominated by the ruling coalition are all from indigenous parties.

It is Malaysia’s biggest state and rich in natural resources, but lagged behind in development comparing to the Malaysia peninsula.

Together with the state of Sabah, the two Malaysian states on North Borneo helped the ruling coalition to retain power in the 2013 general election.

It may play an even more crucial role in the next general election due in 2018.

–IANS

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