Malaysia’s ruling coalition revved up campaigning Wednesday for a special parliamentary election after political analysts warned that the opposition might win.
The heated contest for the seat in northeastern Terengganu state is widely perceived as a barometer of whether the ruling National Front coalition has regained significant support nearly a year after its worst electoral results ever in national polls.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is designated to take over the premiership by April, was slated to address two campaign rallies and meet business leaders in Terengganu on Wednesday, three days before a new legislator is elected for the state’s capital.
“We cannot take the matter lightly because of the stiff competition, but if we are united and remain focused, God willing, we can win,” Najib told reporters late Tuesday.
About 80,000 people will be eligible to cast votes Saturday for a new federal lawmaker in Kuala Terengganu city after the National Front’s incumbent, who narrowly defeated an opposition candidate last year, died in November.
Political analyst Ong Kian Ming wrote on the Malaysiakini news Web site Monday that based on his analysis of electoral data, the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party might wrest the seat by a majority of nearly 3,300 votes.
The independent Merdeka Center research group, which polled more than 500 Terengganu voters last week, said Tuesday that support for both sides appeared evenly split among Malay majority voters, but the ethnic Chinese minority showed “a slight leaning in favor of the opposition.”
The National Front’s popularity plunged last year amid growing complaints by Chinese and Indian minorities of racial discrimination. Many Malays also backed the opposition in general elections last March because of dissatisfaction with rising prices, corruption and crime.
The National Front is anxious to prevent a second consecutive electoral loss after former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim won a by-election in September to return to Parliament as opposition leader after a 10-year gap.
The Terengganu by-election will also test whether voters are impressed by the leadership of Najib, who is spearheading the National Front’s campaign less than three months before he is scheduled to take over from outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Read about Najib’s leadership:
Kuala Terengganu by-election will show voters’ opinion of Najib’s leadership