Kuala Lumpur, Nov 19 (EFE).- About 21 million Malaysians are called Saturday to the polls in disputed elections with a record number of contenders and three alliances in contention in which it is expected that young people’s vote will be key to determine a winner.
The country, with more than 32 million people and a Muslim majority, is holding elections early to try to end a political crisis that began in 2020, when then-Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, 97, resigned due to problems within his party, with two others succeeding him since.
The short government of Mahathir, who had already governed in the past (1981-2003), was an exception in Malaysia, as it was the only time that the opposition, the Pakatan Harapan alliance, beat the National Organization of the United Malays (UMNO), in control of the country since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.
In Saturday’s elections, with polls open from 8am and 6pm (GMT+8), the classic coalitions return to the scene: Barisan Nasional, led by UMNO and by the current Prime Minister, Ismail Yaakob, 62, and Pakatan Harapan, now led by Anwar Ibrahim.
In addition, the conservative Perikatan Nasional is contestin, led by the Islamic Party of Malaysia. Its candidate is Muhyiddin Yassin, 75, who governed between May 2020 and August 2021, after the resignation of Mahathir, and who has hardened his rhetoric with anti-Semitic comments.
A record number of 108 independent candidates are presented, in a sign of the growing discontent among the electorate about the political instability in the past years.
Among them, the first disabled woman candidate stands out, Noraishah Mydin Abdul Aziz, at the head of Parti Keadilan and highly critical of UMNO.
As in 2018, the shadow of corruption in UMNO hangs over the elections as one of the fundamental issues, this time with former Prime Minister Najib Razak behind bars for his role in the multi-million dollar embezzlement of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund, which made him lose to Mahathir.
At 97, Mahathir returns to the electoral race at the head of a new Malayan alliance called “Movement of the People,” which the politician hopes will win enough votes to become the hinge party that determines the winner.
In addition to corruption, the elections are marked by the division of the vote between the Malay ethnic group, which accounts for about 69 percent of the population (23 percent are Chinese and 7 percent Indian), which had normally supported UMNO. Also crucial will be young people’s vote, with about 6.23 million new and undecided voters in a country affected, like many others, by high inflation.
Another less common factor, the rains, will also be decisive, as it is the time of flooding in Malaysia and the meteorological services warn there will be storms in most of the country during the day.
The first preliminary results are not expected until one or two hours after polls close, at 8:00 pm (GMT+8), with none of the coalitions expected to initially achieve the simple majority (112 seats) needed to form government. EFE