Mahathir Mohamad, the 92 year old ex-leader of Malaysia, has already warned that the May 9th election will be the dirtiest one in Malaysian history. However, the odds look slim for Mahathir, the opposition; a recent survey by Merdeka Center predicts that Barisan Nasional (BN) led by Najib Razak will still prevail, even without the support of Chinese voters. But there will be a factionalising of the Malay vote (which stands now at nearly two-thirds of the total vote count), with a surprise swing of support in favour of the opposition.
Just this weekend, supporters from both factions took to the streets to show their support. Those from the ruling coalition sang “we choose BN”, crediting Najib for the development of the Islamic nation and country. On the other end, those behind the opposition, calling themselves the Pact of Hope, rallied in the hope of bringing down the kleptocracy.
Why does this matter?
Behind rhetorics and slogans, there is a lot on the line in Malaysia’s General Election. The most glaring being the 1MDB Scandal that riveted international attention – will Najib finally have justice served after being accused of pocketing 1MDB funds? Other things deserve some thought too- such as the ethical implications of pork-barrel politics, vote buying, and campaigning that draws divides among races. There is also fear that the if the opposition party did win, it could threaten Malaysia’s currently cushy ties with China, which Najib has helped to foster in recent years.
Ultimately, what is best for Malaysia? Will the opposition be able to build bridges between races and foster national unity, while putting an end to corrupt bureaucratic practices (all this at the risk of endangering ties with China if new leaders don’t see eye to eye)? Or will winning this election by a hairline spur the incumbents to enact change in governance, and ensure Malaysia’s continued economic prosperity?
The next month will be an exciting one for our friends across the causeway.