KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — Late tonight or early tomorrow, Malaysians and the world will know which way the dice fell in the country’s most fiercely contested general election, the Singapore Straits Times reported today.
Both sides of the political divide are confident about winning power.
The newspaper reported that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak expressed confidence about regaining a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
On the other hand, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition’s biggest name, has said publicly that big crowds at rallies organised by his Pakatan Rakyat (PR) need not translate into votes. But he, too, is confident that the popular force is with him.
A poll by the respected Merdeka Center released last Friday evening had their chances roughly even, with 46 of the 222 parliamentary constituencies too close to call. A closer look at the survey suggests that the challengers may be ahead by a nose in Peninsular Malaysia, an advantage that could be neutralised by the resources available to the incumbent and steadfast support for Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) from Sarawak and Sabah.
The Straits Times reported that even without surveys predicting a tight race and the forces unleashed by a resurgent opposition facing a resolute government, there was enough tension in the build-up to the 13th general election, with people emotionally invested as never before.
With 2.5 million new names among the 13.3 million eligible voters, there is an unprecedented number of young and first-timers heading to polling booths today. Political surveys show that more young people support the opposition, it wrote.
BN — and its precursor, the Alliance — has ruled for nearly six decades on a broad compact that brought the three main racial groups — Malays, Chinese and Indians — under its umbrella. But Chinese disdain for BN component party MCA has been rising, surveys show. In 2008, MCA contested 40 parliamentary seats and won just 15. This time, it is contesting 37 seats, and even so, some party officials fear a severe setback, The Straits Times reported.
The newspaper said should this happen and BN prevails, as it seems confident of doing, the coalition will appear tomorrow morning as a Malay group, seemingly bereft of Chinese support. On the other hand, should the Chinese-oriented DAP’s rising stock with the community help propel the opposition to power, it could lead to fears that the Chinese will demand a larger representation in Cabinet, stoking Malay insecurities, it added.
Such are the scenarios Malaysians will have to tackle after the election. In all likelihood, it will be a situation that will take some getting used to. A first-past-the-post system has inherent flaws that leave it incapable of fully reflecting the ground, the daily reported.
The Straits Times said it is important for Malaysians to keep calm as they digest the results.
IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar has vowed that his men would keep the peace as a professional force, even as rumours of possible unrest have led many to stock up on food and essentials.
The daily said the election campaign period began with a sense of bonhomie as some of the biggest rivals shook hands and sat down for breakfast together. Malaysia’s neighbours, and the broader world, will be wishing for an equally cordial conclusion to the election process, it added.