Malaysian PM calls elections

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PV International Desk : Malaysia’s scandal-tainted prime minister announced Friday that Parliament will be dissolved to pave the way for general elections, expected to be held next month, that will pit his long-ruling coalition against a revived opposition led by former strongman Mahathir Mohamad.

The polls are seen as a test of survival for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is widely expected to win but under pressure to improve the performance of his National Front coalition after support eroded in the last two elections. Mahathir, Asia’s longest-serving premier for 22 years before he retired in 2003, turned against his protege two years ago over a corruption scandal and now leads an opposition alliance.

Najib said in a nationally televised address that he obtained consent from Malaysia’s king to dissolve Parliament on Saturday, ahead of June 24, when the government’s five-year mandate expires.

The Election Commission is expected to meet within a week to set a polling date. Voting must be held within two months but widely expected in early May before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“This election primarily is about Najib. The result will determine his political future. If he worsens his performance, there are leaders who will emerge,” said Bridget Welsh, political science professor at John Cabot University in Rome. “Given the baggage Najib has going into this election, he will need a big win to stay safe.”

Najib has clung on to power despite being embroiled in a corruption scandal that involved hundreds of millions of dollars passing through his bank accounts believed linked to the 1MDB state fund. He denies any wrongdoing and has been cleared by the attorney general who said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.

The National Front lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008 polls. In 2013, it secured its lowest number of parliamentary seats and lost the popular vote for the first time to the opposition — its poorest results in more than five decades of uninterrupted rule since independence from Britain in 1957. It currently holds 132 out of 222 parliamentary seats.