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March 2008
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Malaysia votes

MALAYSIANS go to the polls today (March 8). They will elect their representatives and determine who they want to form the government in the next five years, at the state as well as federal levels. The ballots they cast also represent their views on how the nation has been governed since the last general election in 2004, and what they want to see going forward.

Among the hot seats/states is Penang, where the Barisan Nasional (BN) is facing an onslaught from the Opposition, which includes the DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS. In Kelantan, the BN led by Umno is all out to end PAS’s 18-year rule in the state.

Bernama reports that in this 12th general election, a total of 10.9 million registered voters are eligible to elect representatives for 214 of the 222 parliamentary seats and 501 of the 505 State Legislative Assembly seats nationwide, except for Sarawak which is only involved in the election for parliamentary seats.

It said the Election Commission (EC) opened 7,950 polling centres throughout the country, with 21,822 polling streams, which mostly involve schools, multipurpose halls and longhouses from 8am until 5pm.

On the ground in Kelantan
Danny Lim reports that the battle for Kelantan has been a keen fight throughout the campaign period, with the odds shifting overnight from one side to another.

The readings from the ground have been constantly changing, swayed by the information put out by the different parties and the volatile nature of voter sentiment, which was in turn influenced by the promises, accusations and other comments made during the campaign period, officially from nomination day on Feb 24 to midnight on March 7.

On Thursday (March 6), sources within PAS were confident of taking Kelantan and thought the party was slightly ahead in the parliamentary seat race. They assured the information announced by PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa that morning, that PAS was ahead in 26 state seats, was solid.

By Friday night (March 7), the scenario had changed. Journalists shared information that still put PAS ahead but by a closer margin of 24 state seats to the BN at 21.

Information from Kelantan Umno sources varied: one matched the 24-21 count in favour of PAS, another put the BN marginally ahead.

The PAS insider was flummoxed by how the reading of voter sentiment had changed within 24 hours, and conceded the party was, as of early Saturday morning (March 8), the underdog.

[To be updated later]