ELECTIONS that could determine scandal-plagued Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s political fate were set yesterday for May 9, an unusual workday vote with a shorter campaign period than in the last national polls.
Najib, who is seeking a third term in office, is under pressure to improve his National Front coalition’s performance after support eroded in the last two elections.
The combination of the election being held on a Wednesday and the shorter campaign is seen as possibly hurting voter turnout. Analysts say lower turnout could hurt the opposition led by former strongman Mahathir Mohamad, who was Asia’s longest-serving leader when he retired in 2003 after 22 years.
Mahathir, who now leads a four-party opposition alliance, said the weekday vote was undemocratic because urban voters and about half a million Malaysians working in Singapore would find it difficult to return to their hometowns to vote. Other opposition lawmakers said it showed Najib was worried about the number of urban voters who want change.
Past Malaysian elections were mostly held on weekends but weekday votes are not unprecedented. National polls in 1995 and 1999 under Mahathir were held on Mondays.
The Election Commission set an 11-day campaign period, shorter than the 15 days for the 2013 polls.
Mahathir, who has said a high voter turnout is needed for an opposition victory, was undeterred, saying he was confident his alliance can win.