Malaysians vote in highly-contested general election

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Kuala Lumpur, May 9 (IANS) Malaysian voters on Wednesday went to the polls for the country’s general election, with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition meeting a fierce challenge brought by the opposition alliance – Pakatan Harapan, or the Alliance of Hope.

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. While former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, leading the Pakatan Harapan, is calling for a change, Xinhua reported.

Though most political analysts have favoured the BN to win, the opposition seemed to have managed to raise concerns among voters on certain issues such as increasing living costs, adding uncertainties to the election.

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.

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The 15 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The election commission said final results could be unveiled on Wednesday night. A simple majority of 112 parliament seats will produce a winner.

The 11-day campaign period culminated on Tuesday night, when both Najib and Mahathir made a live-broadcast speech on television or the Internet for their last appeals to the voters for support.

“If BN were given a new mandate, we will make Malaysia even greater,” said Najib, adding “BN is the party of the future, BN is the party for the future.”

The BN has won every election since the country’s independence in 1957.

Mahathir said in his speech that Malaysia is faced with many problems that only could be solved with the change of a government.

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A final poll before the election, released by opinion research firm Merdeka Center, forecast that the BN will prevail in the election, but with the popular vote collecting from Peninsular Malaysia dropping to 37.3 per cent from last week’s 40.3 per cent.

–IANS

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