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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 14:41 GMT
Malaysia set for general election
Posters of Malaysian prime minister Badawi
The National Front has won every election since independence
Campaigning is drawing to a close in Malaysia, ahead of the country's general election on Saturday.

Analysts say the governing coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is worried by signs that ethnic minorities will support the opposition.

Ethnic Indians in particular feel they are discriminated against in favour of the Malay-Muslim majority.

Nonetheless, the governing coalition is still expected to win, as it has every general election since independence.

On Friday Mr Badawi visited a mosque and met fishermen in the northern state of Penang. His deputy, Najib Razak, opened a health clinic and met teachers in eastern Pahang.

His governing coalition, the National Front, controls all but one of Malaysia's 13 states and its three federal territories.

The northern state of Kelantan, controlled by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), is the only state it does not currently hold.

The National Front has won every general election since the end of British colonial rule in 1957, and is not expected to lose this one.

Racial peace

However, analysts say ethnic tension in Malaysia could lead to gains for the opposition parties, including one led by the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Ethnic minorities, who make up 35% of the population, say government policy has denied them fair access to jobs, education, and housing.

Last November about 10,000 Malaysian Indians took to the streets to protest.

Mr Ibrahim, who is banned from holding office after being jailed for corruption in a trial he says was politically motivated, is promising to end racial discrimination if his party wins.

"We want strong Malays, strong Chinese, strong Indians," he told a campaign rally on Thursday night.

"Take the best Malays, let them work with the best Chinese and the best Indians."

But the government maintains that its governing coalition, which includes ethnic Chinese and Indian parties, has ensured racial peace in the country.

Polls open on Saturday at 0800 local time and close at 1700 (0000 to 0900 GMT), with provisional results expected nine hours after polls close.



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