WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On May 5, Malaysians will vote in their 13(th) general election since gaining independence in 1957 — and for the first time, the outcome of the election is in doubt. Disenchantment with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the growing influence of online media and an explosion in the number of young voters (20 percent of the electorate is under 30 and eligible to vote for the first time) could propel the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition to victory.
At a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference on Wednesday, April 24, John Mallott, the former U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia and one of the foremost experts on Malaysian politics, will analyze the forces at play that could make this election an historic turning point for a significant U.S. trading partner and military ally.
While the opposition currently enjoys a slight lead in national polls and a dominant position in online media, the ruling coalition controls the mainstream media and has prevailed in all 12 previous elections. Concerns about electoral fraud are high — international observer delegations have routinely criticized Malaysia’s Election Commission for its handling of previous elections.
The ruling coalition has been plagued by a series of high-profile corruption cases and widespread criticism for poor handling of race relations, including requiring non-Muslims to abide by strict statutes of Muslim law. The opposition coalition controls five of Malaysia’s 14 states and territories and has established a record of building surplus budgets, attracting foreign investment, improving social services and promoting equal citizenship rights for all ethnic groups. But it has also been hampered by internal conflicts over application of Islamic law.
Some observers maintain that a change in government would be destabilizing for Malaysia, while others contend it’s crucial for bringing about the reforms necessary for Malaysia to function effectively as a pluralistic society in a globalized world.
This National Press Club Newsmaker news conference will take place on Wednesday, April 24 at 2 p.m. in the club’s Zenger Room on the 13(th) Floor of the National Press Building, 529 14(th) St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.
SOURCE National Press Club