Malaysians vote in general election amid political instability


Malaysians began voting Saturday in a general election pitting the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob against three other coalitions, amid political instability in the country that has seen three leadership changes in the past four years.

At stake is control of the 222 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, and 116 seats in 3 state assemblies.

Polls forecast no clear winner among the coalitions, with Malaysia experiencing fractious politics since the previous 2018 election that saw the ruling National Front coalition, in power since independence, toppled by Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, then headed by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The National Front coalition, popularly known as BN, is led by Ismail Sabri’s United Malays National Organization. The coalition vaulted back to power in 2020 after an implosion of the PH caused the collapse of Mahathir’s government.

Stability has been the BN’s watchword during the 14-day election campaign, with economic recovery from the pandemic and government corruption among the top issues.

While the BN has strong support among ethnic Malays in rural areas, the PH, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, is multi-ethnic and popular among voters in cities.

It is fighting to wrest back power, pledging to curb rising living costs, guarantee the equal rights of all ethnicities and combat corruption.

The other two coalitions are Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Gerakan Tanah Air, or Homeland Movement, grouping of Malay parties led by Mahathir.

The PN, formerly the BN’s partner in government, is campaigning as a cleaner alternative to the UMNO to champion the supremacy of ethnic Malays.

Mahathir, the 97-year-old two-time prime minister, has also criticized the UMNO by saying it only fights for money and to save its leaders facing corruption charges from courts and prisons.

Ethnic Malays form nearly 70 percent of the country’s 32 million population, ethnic Chinese just over 20 percent and Indians nearly 10 percent, with the rest indigenous people.

Voting began at 8 am and will run through 6 pm.

According to the Election Commission, 21.1 million people are eligible to vote, with more than 6 million having recently gained the right to vote following the revision of an election law that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.




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