VOTING has kicked off in the most crucial and highly anticipated Malaysian election in a lifetime. Voters thronged to the polls in numbers that appear far larger than those seen at the last election in 2013. The tight poll numbers and gaining momentum of the opposition party have made this one to watch.
Polling began at 8am but there were reports of long lines forming well before that in anticipation of the 8,253 nationwide polling stations opening their doors.
There are almost 15 million registered voters in Malaysia. By 12 noon reports from the Electoral Commission suggested 47 percent of those eligible had already voted.
The prime ministerial hopefuls came out the cast their ballots. Scandal-ridden incumbent Najib Razak wished all Malaysians a “happy voting” day as he head to his local polling station at the Science School Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah in Pekan in the state of Pahang.
“To all eligible Malaysians, I wish a happy voting!,” he said on Twitter.
“Make the right choice for the future of the country, may Malaysia continues to remain great and become greater, God Willing.”
In a final bid to win over voters, Najib announced late on Tuesday that all citizens under 26 years of age would be exempt from paying income tax and the whole country would receive two days public holiday if his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was victorious.
— Malaysia Decides (@msiadecides) May 9, 2018
Najib’s rival and long-time critic, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, made his way to Titi Gajah in mainland Kedah – a key seat for his opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) – to cast his ballot. The 92-year-old looked serious as he was greeted by locals.
The former leader, who stepped down in 2003 before making his comeback for this election, remains popular in Malaysia. The opposition PH is hoping his popularity will help them get over the line to clinch the majority from ruling BN.
Dr Mahathir – looking mostly serious this morning – walking to a Langkawi school polling station. He did not speak throughout but was greeted by several locals #GE14 https://t.co/vZY0EGZJLi pic.twitter.com/SFW61hVHOH
— Jack Board (@JackBoardCNA) May 9, 2018
Other big hitters seen out this morning include Chief Minister of Selangor Azmin Ali who told Asian Correspondent that he was confident in PH securing at least 40 state seats in Selangor due to the “clear, strong leadership… that we (the opposition) have provided for the last ten years.”
Commenting on Najib’s generous last-minute offer to exempt people from income tax, Azmin said: “How could the caretaker PM make an announcement that involves huge financial consideration? This is unbecoming of him.”
— Nabihah Hamid (@nabihah_hamid) May 9, 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi cast his vote at the Madrasah Manbail Ulum Sungai Nipah Darat, in Rungkup this morning. He is also BN candidate for the Bagan Datuk parliamentary constituency.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, president of leading opposition coalition member Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), arrived at her local polling station in Penang state at 9am. She was seen mingling with crowds and entertaining requests for photos at Permatang Pauh, where she has held the parliamentary seat that she won in the 2015 by-election, replacing her husband Anwar Ibrahim.
Today the same seat is being contested by her daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar for the opposition. Her father, Anwar Ibrahim, won the seat in 2013 before he was incarcerated on charges of sodomy. He remains official leader of PKR and is expected to assume the prime minister’s seat upon his release if the opposition wins today.
Under Malaysia’s first-past-the-post system, a party or alliance needs a 112 seat majority in parliament to win.
Najib’s long-ruling BN is expected to take victory despite election-eve opinion polls suggesting its support was slipping and that Mahathir’s alliance would land more votes in peninsular Malaysia, home to 80 percent of the population.
As voter turnout looks like it will be one of the highest in Malaysia’s history, there’s still all to play for as voting reaches the halfway point.