Malaysia awaits election outcome
As elections go, this one is a cliffhanger. Currently nibbling their nails, members of Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional – or National Front - coalition.
They have ruled the country for the last 56 years – longer than any other party in the world with the exception of the communists in China, North Korea and Cuba – and they face the very real possibility of an extended stay the uncomfortable wilderness that is the political opposition.
The current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has done what he can to avoid it.
He heads the dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) within the coalition and he’s criss-crossed the country warning of economic ruin and a stock market collapse if the opposition wins.
The prime minister has four years of strong economic growth to rest on – but he has been unable to eliminate the view, particularly in the minds of younger, urban voters that his party is corrupt and out of touch.
The government’s affirmative action programs, which favour ethnic Malays in everything from jobs to education, are deeply unpopular for example with minority Chinese and Indian populations.
Still, Prime Minister Najib was looking pretty relaxed at the voting booth this morning – and he congratulated everyone for the turn out tonight on twitter:
He wrote: “EC has confirmed that 80 per cent of the 13 million eligible voters cast their ballots today. Msia’s highest ever voter turnout! A proud day”
The opposition’s three-party People’s Alliance (PKR) has a real chance of kicking the prime minister out of office however.
It’s led by the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim – a one-time deputy prime minister – fired in 1998 and subsequently jailed on corruption and sodomy charges.
Mr Ibrahim says the charges were fabricated by his political enemies. Regardless, he has re-risen phoenix-like on to the national stage and led a campaign that’s generated real passion and enthusiasm.
Hundreds of thousands attended his rallies and tonight he claims it has all paid off – although he starts his tweet with a few words about phone problems, saying: “Amazing-all the phone lines at PKR HQ are down tonight. PR has won. We urge UMNO and the EC to not attempt to hijack the results.”
The election campaign – which was short at 15 days but fiercely contested – has certainly caught the national imagination.
Millions will stare anxiously at their television stations screens tonight – although many others will choose independent online web-based radio stations – because the National Front/UMNO controls the mainstream media.
Prime Minister Najib was interviewed on national television today by a man wearing a shirt with his party’s logo on it.
A tweet from twitter account holder Typical Malaysianon revealed the national mood. It read: “The last time Malaysians were this excited over an event is the Olympics 2012 Badminton finals. Fact.”
That excitement could turn to disillusionment – or even violence – if the public views the final results as unfair or unrepresentative. There have been plenty of complaints already.
The police has recorded 2,000 cases of arson, fighting, explosions and other election-related crimes since parliament was dissolved. Tonight we are hearing allegations that the ruling National Front flew in foreign nationals and Malayasians were reportedly offered £100 each to make the trip south to cast their votes.
It’s enough to keep many in Malaysia on edge.
Follow @c4sparks on Twitter.