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PM Najib faces tough challenge from Mahathir as Malaysia schedules national elections on May 9

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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysians will go to the polls on May 9 for a general election where scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak’s long-ruling coalition faces one of its toughest ever challenges from veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, authorities announced Tuesday.

“Voting day is on May 9,” election commission chairman Mohamad Hashim Abdullah told a press conference.

Polling day will be on a Wednesday, an unusual move as national elections in Malaysia are usually held at a weekend.

There will be an 11-day campaign period before polling day.

TOUGHEST TEST YET
The announcement came after parliament was dissolved at the weekend, setting the stage for one of the sternest ever tests of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition during its six decades in power.

The government’s popularity has been sliding in recent years and its problems have been worsened by a scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB, but Mr. Najib is still tipped to win due to BN’s firm grip on power.

He is under pressure from allies in his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) — the main coalition party — to score an emphatic victory after the government lost the popular vote for the first time at the last election in 2013.

Victory, however, is less certain due to the comeback of Mr. Mahathir, 92, who is the opposition prime ministerial candidate.

He came out of retirement and turned on his former protege Mr. Najib over the 1MDB scandal. — AFP