Mahathir claims victory in Malaysia vote

End of Mahathir era? He's just beginning again

Kuala Lumpur: Voters have a stark choice in Malaysia's election today: resurrect the country's 92-year-old former authoritarian leader or give a third term to Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose alleged role in the multibillion-dollar ransacking of a state investment fund has battered Malaysia's standing overseas. Watched by election officials, voters at a polling station set up at a school in central Kuala Lumpur dipped a finger in purple ink before casting their votes.

Most results are expected before midnight but the count may spill into the early hours of Thursday. I am hopeful the government is returned due to their management of the economy and for national unity, Jamil says, proudly displaying the his inked finger.

But the race has been fiercely contested, and the opposition alliance has gained ground in recent weeks as Mahathir, who ruled with an iron fist for 22 years, chipped away at the government's key support base, the Muslim Malay majority.

"The International Monetary Fund commends us for being well on the way to high-income status", the Malaysian prime minister wrote in his blog.

The opposition and election monitoring groups said the commission's decision to hold the vote midweek was likely to lower turnout and favor the ruling party.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said in a statement that an initial investigation into the spam calls pointed to anonymous bot (automated program) attacks from various sources and on various targets irrespective of political parties.

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"UMNO under Najib has not only failed the Malays but also other communities", said Eddin Syazlee Shith, a former ruling party member who left to join Bersatu, and is now a parliamentary candidate for Kuala Pilah. He said he had ordered immediate action to be taken.

The preelection survey published by independent pollster Merdeka Center on Tuesday said BN looked set to win 100 constituencies nationwide and the opposition 83.

However, under Malaysia's electoral system, the party or alliance with the majority of parliament seats wins, and going into the poll most experts believed that was within the prime minister's reach.

At the last election in 2013, BN lost the majority vote in its worst performance ever, but pulled in 133 seats.

The 92-year-old Mahathir says a representative of Malaysia's constitutional monarchy has contacted the opposition to acknowledge its victory.

"In fact, just yesterday, BN had a star-studded concert in Kuah around the same time as the Pakatan ceramah where I spoke", he said.

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Najib's other formidable opponent is former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is now serving a five-year prison sentence on a sodomy conviction that has been attacked by human rights groups as politically motivated.

It is also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million people where governments of countries including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule.

Anwar led the opposition in the 2008 and 2013 polls. "There are candidates who had so much money remaining to hand out but did not manage to give all", claimed Mahathir.

Now, Mahathir has promised to stand aside for Anwar (who is serving the final days of a second stint in prison on trumped-up sodomy charges) to become prime minister if the opposition wins.

U.S. investigators say $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, the investment fund, by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib's bank account.

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