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Malaysia's Anwar urges voters to oust scandal-hit government

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    Agence France-Presse

Kuala Lumpur | Tue, May 8, 2018 | 07:39 pm
Malaysia's Anwar urges voters to oust scandal-hit government This file photo taken on April 13, 2018 shows former Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad listening to questions during an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) at his office in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia's opposition, led by Mahathir, hopes a surge of Muslim support in the multi-ethnic country can carry them to an unlikely victory in the general election on May 9, 2018, as disillusioned members of the country's biggest ethnic group dump the ruling coalition. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has made an impassioned plea to Malaysians to vote out scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak at the elections on Wednesday.

Anwar, 70, has allied himself with his former tormentor, ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of retirement to spearhead an opposition challenge to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

The unlikely Anwar-Mahathir partnership is one of the most remarkable aspects of a gruelling campaign for an election many expect to be one of the country's closest ever.

Their high-profile falling out in the late 1990s shook Malaysian politics.

"I urge you all to join the people's movement to demand change," Anwar said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of his People's Justice Party late Monday.

"I call upon the people to support him (Mahathir) in repairing the damage to our country," added Anwar.

"In 24 hours, the future of the country and fate of the people will be determined by you all."

On Tuesday leading independent pollster Merdeka Center released an opinion survey indicating that the ruling coalition would maintain power but lose the popular vote, for the second consecutive general election.

Under the Malaysian system, a party needs to get a majority of MPs in parliament to maintain power but not the most votes.

The survey conducted in Peninsular Malaysia between April 28 and May 8 showed BN winning 37.3 percent of the popular vote, with Mahathir's opposition coalition winning 43.4 percent.

For the ruling coalition, that would be about 10 points lower than it achieved at the last election in 2013. 

The survey did not include voters in Malaysia's two states on Borneo island.

Head of the pollster Ibrahim Suffian predicted with these votes included, BN's share of the overall popular vote would rise another three to four points.

Anwar once served as Mahathir's deputy before he was sacked in 1998 in a bitter political feud, and later jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.

The verdict was overturned in 2004 and Anwar was freed, but he was jailed for sodomy again in 2015, a conviction that his supporters said was politically motivated. He is due to be released in June.

In the years since, Anwar has become a key figure in the opposition, which won the popular vote at the last election in 2013 but could not form the government as the BN won more seats in parliament. 

Mahathir and Anwar united to take on the ruling coalition after Najib was caught in a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal linked to Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.

Mahathir is challenging Najib for the premiership but has said he will eventually make way for Anwar to take over should the opposition win.

Najib, 64, is still expected to triumph because of what critics claim is widespread manipulation of the electoral system, and a first-past-the-post system that requires a simple majority of MPs for victory.

NEWS PULSE

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