Mudslinging, Sabotage as Malaysia Gears Up for Polls

Mudslinging, Sabotage as Malaysia Gears Up for PollsMudslinging, Sabotage as Malaysia Gears Up for Polls

Vicious mudslinging, allegations of voter fraud and sabotage have marred a hard-fought campaign for Malaysian elections on Wednesday, in which scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak will take on a heavyweight ex-leader.

Najib’s ruling coalition has governed Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957 but is facing a tough test at the polls due to a challenge from a former insider—veteran ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad—and the 1MDB financial scandal, AFP reported.

The government is expected to win, partly helped by a healthy economy; however, critics say gerrymandering and electoral abuses have also been used to tip the scales in Najib’s favor.

But the surprise return of 92-year-old Mahathir at the head of an alliance filled with parties he crushed during two decades in power has shaken up the race, giving the opposition a charismatic standard-bearer they hope can topple Najib.

“This is the most unpredictable general election in Malaysia for years,” Yang Razali Kassim, a Malaysia expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told AFP.

“Mahathir’s comeback has been a game-changer. It reversed the political fortunes of the opposition and shook up the entire political landscape.”

  High Stakes

The high stakes have prompted a brutal campaign, in which Najib and Mahathir have relentlessly hurled insults at each other as they raced up and down the country for rallies.

Mahathir has run down Najib, his one-time protege, lambasting him over 1MDB, and taking aim at his wife Rosmah Mansor, whose reportedly spendthrift habits have made her unpopular.

Billions of dollars were allegedly looted from 1MDB, set up by Najib, in a sophisticated money-laundering scheme. The leader and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

Najib has hit back, criticizing Mahathir’s authoritarian track record when in office.



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