Malaysians vote in tight race as old party, reformers clash
By Mark Kennedy in Kuala Lumpur and Mokhzani Zakaria in Putrajaya / The Guardian, Malaysia
7:30AM GMT 31 Mar 2013
Malaysian voters were caught up in a fiercely fought campaign between candidates of the opposition and the opposition-ruled Barisan’nya coalition, with the country’s political fortunes hanging in the balance.
There was clear voter anger at the government’s handling of the recent economy and the perceived failure of its policy on the “glorious”Malaysia Day celebrations on 16 February.
The BN candidate DPM Nurul Izzah Anwar called the election two months to day. The BN candidate then chose to withdraw from the race, choosing instead to become the DAP’s candidate for the seat of Seri Kembangan, in the state of Perak, in order to try to persuade voters to vote against the government.
The contest then swung to a rematch between the DAP and the BN. The DAP candidate, Lim Kit Siang, had promised to take on the unpopular prime minister, Najib Razak. “I’m not going to compromise on who I am and what I believe about issues of national security,” he said.
The party was also able to pick up the backing of many BN members in the BN’s stronghold of Kuala Lumpur, where the party is dominant.
The other major parties in the race were the PAS, the UMNO alliance led by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and the United Malays National Organisation, led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The UMNO was the last major party to announce their candidacies for the election and were able to take on the BN with a large vote share in the rural, ethnically Malay areas of Sabah and Sarawak.
The PAS also benefited from the unpopularity of Najib Razak. Najib took office in 2009 amidst a corruption scandal and was indicted in June on five counts of 1MDB funds, allegedly used to secure the prime minister’s political survival, but he was never brought to trial.
The election was also seen as a contest between