KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Friday (Apr 6) that parliament will be dissolved on Saturday, paving the way for the country’s 14th general election.
"I would like to inform the people that I met the king and sought his permission for parliament to be dissolved on Saturday, Apr 7," Najib said on state television.
The date of the vote, which now must be held within 60 days from Saturday, will be announced later by the Election Commission.
After laying out the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition's recent achievements in a 25-minute speech, Najib said: "We have delivered and we will continue to deliver. I seek your mandate for Barisan Nasional to rule for another five years."
Najib's United Malay National Organisation party has led every BN coalition since Malaysia gained independence from British rule in 1957.
The prime minister has been helped by an improving economic picture in recent times, and has been seeking to ensure victory by announcing generous handouts to low-income groups, civil servants and farmers.
But his government stoked criticism last week by pushing a controversial redrawing of the electoral map through parliament which critics say will tilt the poll in Najib's favour.
MPs also passed a law banning "fake news" that could see offenders jailed, which some fear could be used to crack down on dissent.
THE RETURN OF MAHATHIR
Najib only narrowly won the last election in 2013 after losing the popular vote to an opposition bloc, now led by 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In a stunning political volte-face, Mahathir was named the prime ministerial candidate in the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, which is filled with parties he crushed during his 22 years in power.
Mahathir has long championed the Malay cause and the opposition hopes he can win over Muslim voters disillusioned with BN, to add to their support base of urban voters and ethnic minorities, particularly the Chinese.
The ex-leader's political rebirth has raised eyebrows, however, particularly his reconciliation with former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim, a key leader in the opposition.
Anwar was heir apparent to Mahathir until the premier sacked him in 1998 over political differences, and he was then jailed on charges of sodomy and abuse of power. He was jailed again in 2015 on charges his supporters say are trumped up.
Najib's government lost a vital two-thirds parliamentary majority, needed to amend the constitution, in the 222-seat parliament at the 2008 election and is hoping to win it back. Some 14.9 million people are registered to vote.