Sunday 22 July 2018

Malaysians begin voting in fiercely contested election

Long lines were already forming at polling booths in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian PM Najib Razak shows his finger marked with ink after voting at his hometown in Pekan (Aaron Favila/AP)
Malaysian PM Najib Razak shows his finger marked with ink after voting at his hometown in Pekan (Aaron Favila/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

Voting is under way in a fiercely contested Malaysian election that pits the country’s prime minister against his 92-year-old former mentor.

Long queues had already formed at some voting locations in Kuala Lumpur and other cities.

Watched by election officials, voters at a polling station set up at a school in central Kuala Lumpur dipped a finger in purple ink before casting their votes.

Analysts say the ruling National Front, in power since independence from Britain in 1957, might lose the popular vote for a second consecutive election.

But it could still win a majority of seats in parliament due to an electoral system that gives more power to rural Malays, its traditional supporters.

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Malaysian voters wait in a line to cast their ballots for the general elections (Vincent Thian/AP)

Leader Najib Razak, in an election eve appeal to voters, promised income tax exemptions for young people and public holidays if his coalition wins.

Mahathir Mohamad, who was Malaysia’s authoritarian leader for 22 years until 2003, repeated the themes of a campaign that asserted a vote for the opposition would save Malaysia from a corrupt elite.

The 92-year-old Dr Mahathir emerged from political retirement and joined the opposition in attempt to oust Mr Najib, his former protege, after a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at a state investment fund set up by Mr Najib.

About 15 million Malaysians are eligible to vote and the Election Commission has predicted a turnout of 85%.

The opposition and election monitoring groups said the commission’s decision to hold the vote midweek was likely to lower turnout and favour the ruling party.

Press Association

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