Malaysians vote in election defined by scandal, tax

Cheryl Sanders
May 9, 2018

Morning newspaper headlines focused on Najib's election eve promises of tax exemptions for young people, extra public holidays and a five-day break from road tolls if his coalition wins.

Mr Mahathir is himself being investigated under that law after alleging that his plane had been sabotaged.

The election pits an opposition led by former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad against the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose image has been sullied by corruption allegations and an unpopular goods and services tax.

Prime Minister Najib Razak faces a tough fight at Wednesday's polls to retain power at the head of the coalition that has ruled Malaysia for six decades, in the face of a challenge from Mahathir.

Polling begins at 8 am with 8,253 polling stations opened simultaneously nationwide. A 13th state, Sarawak, has already held its election.

Peter Mumford, an analyst with Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy for investors, said the credibility of Malaysia's institutions has been "torn to pieces" by Najib's election tactics.

Last year, in a dramatic change of heart, both leaders buried their feud and agreed to join forces with the aim of unseating Najib.

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. Nevertheless, the number of parliamentary seats secured by team Najib was lower than the 140 won in 2008.

Mr 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. For a supermajority, the coalition needs to gain two-thirds of the total seats, or at least 148 constituencies, which allows amendments to the country's absolute law, the Federal Constitution, with little or no hindrance.

Razali said the commission has been informed of various instances where people have had their right to vote curtailed and complaints of postal ballots not being received up to 48 hours before the election and other discrepancies. Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the fund, which was set up and overseen by Najib, in a sophisticated scheme of fraud and money-laundering.

Remarkably robust at 92 years old, Mahathir is welcomed rapturously at opposition rallies and provokes roars of laughter as he mocks Najib as a greedy kleptocrat who would try to buy his way into heaven but would be sent to hell.

The former prime minister of Malaysia was dressed in a chequered pale shirt and black trousers with his Election Commission candidate tag on.

A victory could also potentially pave the way for Dr Mahathir's former foe-turned-comrade Anwar to become the prime minister.

What makes this election different from those past is that this is the first time a former prime minister is attempting to unseat an incumbent successor.

Leaders from the opposition alliance and ruling party politicians claimed their communications were being disrupted by non-stop spam calls on their mobile phones as voting progressed.

Other reports by iNewsToday