Doubts over free, fair elec­tion

The Star Late Edition - - WORLD -

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s for­mer prime min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad yes­ter­day said his op­po­si­tion al­liance could eas­ily win a gen­eral elec­tion that must be held by Au­gust, so long as it was free and fair, but that he ex­pected it to be “ter­ri­bly dirty”.

At 92, the old po­lit­i­cal war horse has an­other shot at the top job, and a win against scan­dal-tainted Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak would make him the world’s old­est premier.

It would also bring to an end the 61-year rule of a party that Ma­hathir helped build, and which has held power since Malaysia’s in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1957.

“We have a good chance of win­ning this time be­cause pub­lic opin­ion is very much for us,” he said.

“The only way Na­jib can frus­trate us is by cheat­ing. If it’s free and fair, we will win hands down.”

Ma­hathir was a tough estab- lish­ment stal­wart for decades, the scourge of dis­senters who dared to chal­lenge the rul­ing United Malays Na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Umno).

But a scan­dal over a state-run in­vest­ment fund, 1Malaysia Devel­op­ment Ber­had (1MDB), has brought un­prece­dented shifts in po­lit­i­cal forces, and Ma­hathir heads an op­po­si­tion al­liance and is seen as the big­gest threat to Na­jib.

Na­jib de­nies any wrong­do­ing over 1MDB, which is at the cen­tre of money-laun­der­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions in at least six coun­tries.

De­spite the scan­dal, an­a­lysts and rul­ing party sources say Na­jib is con­fi­dent of elec­tion vic­tory.

The op­po­si­tion al­liance is con­cerned about plans to re­draw the bound­aries of more than half of 222 par­lia­men­tary con­stituen­cies. Crit­ics say the moves are un­con­sti­tu­tional and could skew vot­ing in favour of Na­jib. – Reuters

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