Najib seeks strong mandate to rule

April 05, 2013 - 5:00:27 am

Malaysian youth show their support to Prime Minister Najib Razak during  a Malaysia Patriotic Cycling event in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur. 

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday he is “cautiously optimistic” of victory on election day if his party can overcome its internal woes.

Najib, who dissolved parliament Wednesday in preparation for a general election seen as the ruling coalition’s toughest challenge after 56 years in power, has urged voters to give him a strong mandate to rule.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to win big, which means two-thirds majority,” he said.

“We have to work hard towards it and we have to make sure we minimise all internal problems within the party,” Najib said, in an apparent reference to factional struggles within his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The vote is tipped to be the closest ever, driven by concerns over corruption, the rising cost of living and high crime under the Barisan Nasional coalition which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.

Najib has worked hard to rebrand UMNO, which dominates the 13-member Barisan coalition, by launching a series of reforms to strengthen the economy and grant greater civil liberties.

The election date has yet to be set by the election commission, but the vote must be held within two months. 

Najib is facing his first test at the ballot box since taking over in 2009, after the coalition lost its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority in a shock 2008 election result.

The resurgent opposition, led by charismatic former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, has gained traction by pledging to tackle authoritarianism and graft and is equally confident of victory.                        AFP