KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysians voted in a crucial election on Saturday, with several parties neck and neck amid headwinds from the global economy.
Nearly 1,000 candidates, the oldest of whom is 97-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, are vying for 221 seats in parliament. The latest polls showed that none of the three main camps were on track to win at least half the seats, possibly prompting a scramble for alliances to form a government.
The opposition Hope Pact led by longtime leadership aspirant Anwar Ibrahim is aiming to reclaim the mandate it won in 2018, which was wrested from it by the outgoing National Front following unprecedented political manoeuvring. The National Front’s nucleus, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), sees the loss as a blow in its otherwise unbroken run for power since independence.
Voting ended at 6 p.m. local time, with results expected to crystallize in the early hours of Sunday.
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Malaysian party leaders play down electoral chances as polls close
Here are the latest updates (local time):
7:00 p.m. The latest turnout data, at 4 p.m., shows a ratio of 70%, or 14.8 million voters.
6:00 p.m. It’s time for the polls to close. Now let’s wait for the results to come in.
The ballot boxes will be sealed by officials of the Electoral Commission and transported to the counting centers. Each parliamentary constituency will have a counting centre.
At 3 p.m., turnout was 65%, or 13.7 million people.
5:25 p.m. The electoral commission has suspended voting in Baram, on the island of Borneo, due to bad weather. This means the total number of seats up for grabs on Saturday will be 220, down from the original 222. A separate polling date will be announced in due course for Baram as well as Padang Serai, where voting has been postponed until next month due to the sudden death of a candidate.
3:55 p.m. Some Malaysians took the opportunity to participate in role-playing games, showing up to vote dressed as superheroes like Captain America, Predator, Iron Man and Power Rangers.
3:50 p.m. More than 12.2 million voters had voted by 2 p.m., or 58% of all eligible.
3:45 p.m. Participation is a key factor to monitor. Another is how young citizens vote. As many as 1.4 million of the 21.17 million eligible voters are first-timers, after the minimum age was lowered from 21 to 18.
2:15 p.m. The electoral commission indicates that 50% of voters had voted at 1 p.m., a slower pace than in 2018 when the percentage was at the same time of 55%. However, this year the voter base is larger and the number of voters casting their ballots at 1 p.m. was 10.5 million, up from 8.22 million four years ago.
2:00 p.m. The Department of Meteorology is warning of thunderstorms and heavy rain in the southern state of Johor and parts of Sabah state on the island of Borneo.
1:50 p.m. The country’s electoral commission tweets that as of noon, 42% of voters had voted. The participation rate in the last federal election, in 2018, was 82%.
1:20 p.m. Skies over the capital are clearing after an early morning drizzle, but local media are reporting voters in the interior of Sarawak state, Borneo, are braving floodwaters to cast their ballots.
1:00 p.m. Former Prime Ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin show up at their polling stations to vote.
11:10 a.m. Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the opposition Hope Pact coalition, arrives at a polling center in Penang state and votes alongside many other citizens. Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Prime Minister and Deputy Chairman of the ruling UMNO, is also seen voting in Bera, Pahang state.
8:00 a.m. Election day is underway as polling stations are fully open. A key question is how the monsoon season might affect participation. The Meteorological Department gave a mixed forecast for Election Day, with rain expected in parts of the country.
07:00 Pollster Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, in its latest poll on Friday, predicted the opposition Hope Pact coalition would lead with 82 seats, out of 221, followed by the National Alliance with 43. UMNO is expected to get 15 seats, 45 of which are considered a toss up.