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Najib Razak: Malaysia’s election challenge

Ahead of Malaysia’s polls, the prime minister explains why he thinks defeat would be a ‘disaster’ for his country.

The man at the top of Malaysia’s largest political party is at a crucial moment in the nation’s political history.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is possibly the ultimate political insider – he is the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister and the nephew of the country’s third prime minister.

This will be a very hard fought, robust election .... As a political party, we have been in power for 55 years, but within this time we have brought real change and development in Malaysia ... I am cautiously optimistic that the voters will return National Front back into power.

by Prime Minister Najib Razak

He is the pick of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), one of the ruling National Front coalition’s race-based parties, and it is facing its most serious challenge after 56 years in power.

General elections, due in a matter of days, are expected to be the most hotly contested in history – every vote in every state will be valuable. 

The ruling coalition is having to fight hard against perceptions of corruption and cronyism – in particular after the London based anti-corruption organisation Global Witness recently reported on what it called “the systemic corruption and illegality at the heart of government.”

Najib has spoken internationally about his vision of Malaysia as an example to the world of a moderate Muslim country, part of a global coalition of moderates.

But at home people in racial and religious minorities are increasingly outspoken and angry at the way Malay Muslims are favoured.

This is the first time Najib Razak has led his party into elections and it is the first time UMNO has faced such a strong possibility of a hung parliament or even defeat.

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition People’s Justice Party known as PKR, has challenged the prime minister to a debate ahead of the vote on May 5.

Talk To Al Jazeera sat down with Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, to find out how he responded to this political challenge and the important issues facing Malaysia.