Dr Mahathir says 'confident of winning' Malaysia election

Dr Mahathir says 'confident of winning' Malaysia election

Dr Mahathir says 'confident of winning' Malaysia election

Malaysians go to the polls on Wednesday (May 9) to decide the outcome of one of the country's fiercest political battles in decades, with Prime Minister Najib Razak and his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition facing a challenge led by his one-time mentor, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The 15 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time.

Election Commission chairman Mohamad Hashim Abdullah told a news conference, "We see a difference this time in people's desire to vote".

"I think right now, it looks more favourable to BN, as they are able to pull in most of east Malaysia", said Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, a Malaysia scholar at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

In the days before the poll, election reform group Bersih 2.0 accused the Election Commission (EC) of multiple "electoral crimes" including irregularities in postal voting and failing to remove dead people from the electoral roll.

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 percent from last week's 40.3 percent.

Najib is seeking to retain power at the head of a regime that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, but veteran ex-leader Mahathir´s shock comeback has upended the election race.

This newspaper's team of journalists on the ground reported long queues of voters at some of the polling stations. He urged voters to ignore "fake" messages aimed at creating panic.

Results are expected to be known later today (Wednesday).

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Polling begins at 8 am with 8,253 polling stations opened simultaneously nationwide.

"I call upon the people to support him (Mahathir) in repairing the damage to our country", added Anwar. "We need a visionary to lead Malaysia".

The Prime Minister said people aged 26 and below would no longer pay income tax if BN won.

At the last election, BN lost the majority vote in its worst performance ever, but pulled in 133 seats.

The government recently passed a law redrawing election boundaries, leading to accusations that it had gerrymandered constituencies to ensure they were filled by Malay Muslims, who are traditionally BN supporters.

Mahathir, prime minister for 22 years until 2003, emerged from political retirement and joined the opposition in an attempt to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak, his former protege, after a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state investment fund 1MDB set up by Najib.

Angered by a massive financial scandal that has tarnished Malaysia´s global image, Mahathir has teamed up with an alliance of parties that opposed him when he was in power, and which includes jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim - his former nemesis. 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.

But Najib has another formidable opponent in former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is now serving a five-year prison sentence on a sodomy conviction that has been attacked by human rights groups as politically motivated.

The controversy surrounding state fund 1MDB has dogged Najib since the story exploded in 2015.

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