LANGKAWI: Prime ministerial candidate and opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad made appearances at polling stations in Langkawi on Wednesday (May 9), the day of a general election that sees him challenge the ruling coalition under incumbent and former political protege Najib Razak.
An hour after polls opened around the island and the country at 8am, Dr Mahathir made his presence felt in his adopted constituency, which he is aiming to win from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party, which has never lost an election in Langkawi.
He silently observed the voting procedure inside a quiet polling station at SKR Kuala Teriang.
The 92-year-old was not voting on the island, but rather flew to the mainland to cast his ballot at a school in Titi Gajah, also in the state of Kedah.
Langkawi is a three-way fight also featuring incumbent BN candidate Nawawi bin Ahmad and Zubir bin Ahmad from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.
“I’m very nervous today because it’s my first time voting,” said Fifi, 27.
“Today it’s important because it’s voting day. I came early because I can go back early. I feel very happy because it’s like Hari Raya, today is a beautiful day,” said Saad, 66.
“I hope there will be a change,” said Yana, 27.
The holiday island with about 42,000 registered voters has been the target of vast pledges of federal spending, as it became a battlefield for the two men wanting to be the nation’s leader.
Prime Minister Najib Razak promised funding for 18 projects on the island worth at least US$159 million.
“I want to tell the people of Langkawi that I – the Prime Minister and a representative of Barisan Nasional – am very committed to the future of Langkawi,” Mr Najib said during a campaign stop.
Meantime, Dr Mahathir has been relying on the nostalgia of local residents who remember his role in economically transforming the island during the 1980s, including granting it its duty free tax status. World class resorts now attract huge waves of international tourists each year.
On Tuesday night, Dr Mahathir made a final speech to local voters, broadcast live around the country on Facebook, calling for the end of to the “kleptocracy” under Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“We lost our pride. We are ashamed being known as Malaysians,” he said.
“We can bring back our pride if we change government, replace it with a party with power limitations to ensure there won’t be any misuse of power like the current situation. For this, we need to make sure Najib, BN and UMNO lose.”
Dr Mahathir was scheduled to visit several polling areas in Langkawi before flying to Kuala Lumpur to await the election results, due at about 10pm.