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Tight race expected for Malaysia elections

Survey by polling organisation says voters still undecided and election too close to call a day before voting begins.

Last Modified: 04 May 2013 11:03
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Large numbers of Malaysian voters are still undecided and the elections are too close to call just a day before voting begins, a new survey says.

The survey, released on Friday by the Merdeka Centre, said the upstart opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim looked set to win at least 89 of parliament's 222 seats in Sunday's vote, compared to 85 for the ruling coalition of Najib Raza, the current prime minister.

But the polling organisation added that its analysis of all 222 constituencies indicated another 46 seats were up for grabs, with the final two likely going to independent candidates. At least 112 seats are required to form a government.

"The numbers point to neither side having a clear advantage. Whoever controls the majority of those [undecided] seats will win the country's elections on Sunday," Ibrahim Suffian, the centre's director, told the AFP news agency.

Malaysians have eagerly awaited the election ever since 2008 polls in which a newly united opposition made unprecedented inroads against the once-invincible ruling bloc that has tightly controlled the country since independence.

Twitter showdown - Malaysia elections 2013

The Merdeka Centre also said a survey found that 42 percent of respondents believed the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) alliance "should be given the chance to govern the country", while 41 percent said "only Barisan Nasional can govern".

The rest of those polled were undecided or refused to respond.

Structural biases 

However, Ibrahim said Barisan (National Front) still "has the edge" due to structural biases built into the electoral system by Barisan over the decades, and its control of traditional media.

Pakatan won 47 percent of the nationwide vote in 2008, but just over a third of parliament.

Columinist Karim Raslan told Al Jazeera from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, that race and religion would play a major part in the elections as both remained "central in the Malaysian public life".

But he also said the governing bloc had trust issues to grapple with.

"There is a very large trust deficit with regard to the institutions of state," said Karim.

"Most people are very doubtful that the Barisan party would ever give up power. In the event that they were to win, there would also be an enormous amount of doubt as to whether or not they won honourably.

"I can't see how he [Najib Razak] is going to prove – should he win by a remarkable majority – that it was honourably done." 

The charismatic Anwar was once heir-apparent to Barisan but a 1998 power struggle ended with him jailed for six years on sex charges widely criticised as trumped up by his rival, then-premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar joined the long-hapless opposition after his release in 2004, dramatically reversing its fortunes by uniting its disparate camps.

Amid pressure for reform, Najib has made limited liberalisation gestures and is campaigning on a promise of stability and continued economic growth.

Anwar, meanwhile, is pledging to root out rampant corruption, create a more open democracy and raise incomes.

For the survey, Merdeka Centre polled 1,600 voters between April 28 and May 2.

538

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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