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Malaysia votes in general election, Anwar seen leading tight race

Malaysia votes in general election, Anwar seen leading tight race

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Malaysians were voting on Saturday in a general election that may fail to end the recent phase of political instability in the Southeast Asian nation as polls have predicted no clear winner.

The alliance led by veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is forecast to take the most seats in parliament but fail to reach the majority needed to form a government.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling Barisan coalition and another bloc led by former premier Muhyiddin Yassin are other leading contenders. Muhyiddin’s alliance was a junior partner in Ismail’s coalition government, and the two could come together again to block Anwar.

Without a clear winner, political uncertainty could persist as Malaysia faces slowing economic growth and rising inflation.

It has had three prime ministers in as many years, including 97-year-old Mahathir Mohamed, who ruled Malaysia for more than two decades during two stints in power, and has roused himself for one last fight, though he is not considered a leading contender.

If Anwar clinches the top job, it would cap a remarkable journey for a politician who in 25 years has gone from heir apparent to the premiership to a political prisoner convicted of sodomy to the country’s leading opposition figure.

“Right now, I think things are looking good and we are cautiously confident,” Anwar told reporters after casting his vote in the state of Penang.

Ismail said his coalition was targeting a simple majority, but would be open to working with others if it failed to do so.Advertisement · Scroll to continueReport an ad

Malaysia’s 21.1 million eligible voters, including 6 million new ones, will choose 222 lawmakers for the lower house of parliament. The race was fluid, with opinion polls showing significant numbers of undecided voters in the days before the vote.

Some 42% of voters had cast their ballots by noon (0500 GMT), the Election Commission said. That was on par with turnout at the same time in the previous election in 2018, reflecting the increase in voters, political analyst Bridget Welsh told Reuters.

That was a “very good” turnout so far, said Welsh of the University of Nottingham Malaysia, though she said it could slow, with rain forecast in many parts of Malaysia later in the day. “A higher turnout will favour Anwar’s coalition.” Reuters