In Malaysia, the 13th general election has been called by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak after a year-long speculation. More than 13 million Malaysians will go to the polls on May 5. This is the first time that the ruling party has gone through the full five-year term before dissolving parliament. Most feel the ruling coalition has lacked confidence to face the electorate on several contentious issues like race, vote buying, electoral fraud, Hudud law and corruption. It faces growing anger due to rising racial and religious tensions, allegations of corruption involving its leaders directly or indirectly, the rising cost of living, police brutality, continued detention without trial and the awarding of scholarships to students based on racial quota and not merit.
This is also the first time for Najib Razak, who became prime minister after his predecessor quit four years ago, to led the ruling party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in a general election and political pundits argue that this has put him in a difficult position to force through any potential policy changes. The election could be the closest in history. Najib needs to reverse the huge gains the Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) made in 2008, when the ruling National Front lost five of 13 states and the two-thirds majority which it had enjoyed since Independence about 57 years ago.
The two hottest election battlegrounds are Penang and Selangor, both held by opposition. The states attract the highest number of investments, providing strong revenue to the federal government. Najib has declared that these two states must be won at any cost while the opposition is fighting hard to keep them in its stable.