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Your Guide to Malaysia's Upcoming General Election

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Election Battle Heats Up in Malaysia

Malaysia is holding a general election on May 9, and the outlook appears promising for Prime Minister Najib Razak -- despite an uncomfortable past few years. He’s arguably in his strongest position since a narrow victory in the 2013 ballot, with economic growth at a three-year high and a divided opposition having turned to the 92-year-old former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, for leadership. Still, that may not be enough to prevent another uncomfortably close contest for the ruling coalition. Opposition parties have focused on rising living costs, blamed in part on a goods and services tax introduced in 2015. And they’ve also slammed the prime minister about a scandal over the finances of the state-owned investment fund 1MDB, which was created under Najib, highlighting allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars flowed through and around the fund and into the personal accounts of him and his family. (He denies wrongdoing.)

Najib, 64, leads the party called United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, which has held power since independence in 1957 and is the most important member of the coalition that has ruled the country for 44 years. He became prime minister in 2009 and led the coalition -- known as Barisan Nasional -- to victory in 2013. However, Barisan Nasional secured its lowest number of parliamentary seats and experienced its first-ever loss of the popular vote, stoking optimism among opposition parties for the next election.