A record number of Malaysians voted in tight national elections yesterday, with some choosing to preserve the ruling National Front coalition’s 56-year rule for the sake of stability and others pressing for an unprecedented victory by an opposition that pledges to create a cleaner government.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Front coalition has won 12 consecutive general elections since independence from Britain in 1957, but now faces its most unified opposition challenge ever.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party People’s Alliance hopes allegations of arrogance, abuse of public funds and racial discrimination by the National Front will propel the opposition into power.
More than 10 million Malaysians cast ballots for a record turnout of 80 percent of about 13 million registered voters, Malaysia’s Election Commission said in preliminary estimates. Results were expected late last night.
Many people lined up for more than an hour at schools and other voting centers, showing off their inked fingers to prevent multiple voting after they had finished.
The National Front held 135 seats in the 222-member parliament that was dissolved last month. It is anxious to secure a stronger five-year mandate and regain the two-thirds legislative majority that it held for years, but lost in 2008.
“The government has made some mistakes, but the prime minister has made changes and I believe they [the National Front] will do their best to take care of the people’s welfare,” said Mohamed Rafiq Idris, a car business owner who waited in a long line at a central Selangor State voting center with his wife and son.
Andrew Charles, a Malaysian businessman working in Australia, flew home to vote for the opposition because he believes it can end corruption and mistrust between the Malay Muslim majority and ethnic Chinese, Indian and other minorities.
“I am really fed up. There are more abuses in the system and there is no equality among the races. After 56 years, it is time to give others a chance to change this country,” he said after voting in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur.
Najib says only the National Front can maintain stability in Malaysia, which has long been among Southeast Asia’s most peaceful and wealthier countries.