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Friday, December 2, 2022
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    Leaders to watch as Malaysia heads to the polls

    KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysians go to the polls tomorrow after four years of fractious politics that followed the fall of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.

    At stake are 222 seats in the lower house of parliament, to be decided by 21 million registered voters.

    Here are thumbnail portraits of the key personalities:

    PRIME MINISTER ISMAIL SABRI YAAKOB

    Ismail is the vice chief of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

    He became prime minister in August 2021 with a narrow majority after the resignation of Muhyiddin Yassin over a political crisis.

    Ismail, who is widely seen as colourless, became the third prime minister in three years, underscoring the factional infighting that has plagued Malaysian politics since Najib fell on graft charges.

    UMNO has said he will be its candidate for prime minister if it wins the election.

    FROM LEFT: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Mahathir Mohamad and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. PHOTOS: AFP

    A Malaysian election official prepares ballot boxes ahead of the 15th general election. PHOTO: BERNAMA

    ANWAR IBRAHIM

    The charismatic leader of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) party aligned with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2018 for a historic election win against UMNO.

    Their alliance won 89 seats, but it was not long before Anwar fell out again with his former mentor.

    Anwar, 75, is the perennial opposition leader and analysts say this is probably his last chance to win the top job.

    The former deputy prime minister first lost favour with Mahathir in the late 1990s. He was jailed twice for sodomy but has maintained his innocence and described his imprisonment as political persecution.

    MAHATHIR MOHAMAD

    The 97-year-old has twice been prime minister in his long career, from 1981-2003 and then from 2018-2020.

    Mahathir ruled with an iron fist in his first term, often described by critics as an autocrat but also praised for bringing economic prosperity.

    He came out of retirement in 2018 to lead a reformist coalition with Anwar to a historic victory against UMNO, which had ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years.

    Mahathir became prime minister again just before his 93rd birthday but his government collapsed due to infighting after 22 months.

    This time, he leads a new political party called Gerakan Tanah Air although analysts say it will be a tough challenge to win a third premiership.

    AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI

    Zahid, 69, is the current UMNO president and is considered a dark horse.

    A Najib loyalist and former deputy prime minister, he also held the powerful internal security portfolio.

    Although the party has declared Ismail as its candidate for the prime ministership, there is speculation Zahid has been positioning himself within UMNO for a run at the job.

    However, Zahid is facing 47 graft charges and a verdict is expected soon.

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