KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday he is “cautiously optimistic” of victory on election day if his party can overcome its internal discord.
Najib, who dissolved Parliament on Wednesday in preparation for a general election seen as the ruling coalition’s toughest challenge after 56 years in power, urged voters to give him a strong mandate to continue his rule.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to win big, which means two-thirds majority,” he said.
“We have to work hard toward it and we have to make sure we minimize all internal problems within the party,” Najib said, in an apparent reference to factional struggles within his United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
The vote is tipped to be the closest ever, driven by concerns over corruption, the rising cost of living and high crime under the ruling coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957. Najib has worked hard to rebrand UMNO, which dominates the 13-member coalition, by launching a series of reforms to strengthen the economy and grant greater civil liberties.
The election date has yet to be set by the election commission, but the vote must be held within two months. Analysts speculate it will take place in late April.
The resurgent opposition, led by charismatic former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, has gained traction by pledging to tackle authoritarianism and graft and is equally confident of victory. The opposition holds 75 of 222 parliamentary seats and controls four of the country’s 13 states.