Malaysians starts campaigning for general elections

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Singapore, Feb 25 (UNI) More than 1,500 candidates in Malaysia have started campaigning for the March 8 general elections.

The Barisan Nasional (BN), a multi-party coalition, is going to the polls under the stewardship of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for the second time.

Mr Abdullah won the 2004 elections with 199 parliamentary seats or 90 per cent of the 219 seats, the best performance since 1990.

The BN has bagged seven uncontested seats when nominations closed yesterday. It will have to contest the remaining 215 parliamentary constituencies, and is being challenged by 220 candidates from opposition parties and 37 independents.

The BN, in power since independence, is also bidding for 502 of the 505 state assembly seats. The opposition has nominated 539 candidates with 66 independents bidding for the state seats.

Democratic Action Party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Parti Keadilan Rakyat are leading the challenge to BN, led by the United Malays National Organisation and supported by a number of parties including the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).

The government's slow reform and the rising prices of goods are likely the main election issues in prosperous Malaysia, where the national economic policy favours indigenous Malays against other communities, according to political observers.

Malaysia's ethnic Indians have been expressing disappointments for more than three months for not having received equal opportunities while the Chinese remain contended as they dominate the trade, commerce and small business segments of the economy, the observers pointed out.

UNI XC PD DB1328

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