Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he is confident his three-party alliance can win a "comfortable" majority in upcoming elections amid widespread public unhappiness over the government`s handling of corruption and racial discrimination.
National polls are not due until 2013, but speculation has been rife that Prime Minister Najib Razak will dissolve Parliament soon. Najib`s coalition has led Malaysia since independence in 1957 but suffered its worst electoral performance ever in 2008. It now has slightly less than a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Anwar told the foreign media late yesterday that he believed his alliance can wrest control of Parliament with a margin of at least 10 seats.
He said he believed many among the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, who account for about a third of Malaysia`s 28 million people, supported the opposition and that the battle was now in the rural Malay heartland.
"I`m absolutely certain, God willing, that we will perform much better ... Enough to secure a simple, comfortable majority," Anwar said.
Following unprecedented gains in the 2008 polls, Anwar`s People`s Alliance has broadened its support in recent years by pledging to implement policies to ensure ethnic groups are treated equally and fairly.
Support for the ruling coalition comes mainly from ethnic Malay voters, who comprise about 60 percent of the population. Many ethnic minorities feel they face unfair discrimination because of affirmative action policies that favour Malays in government jobs, financial contracts, education and housing.
The opposition also frequently accuses the ruling coalition of corruption and economic mismanagement, while the government says its rivals lack the ability and experience to run the country.
Anwar said his main concern was electoral fraud that could give the government an unfair advantage. He said the opposition was looking at ways to monitor the polls to ensure more transparency.
Some 50,000 people marched in Kuala Lumpur in April, the second mass rally in 10 months, to demand electoral reforms. Authorities briefly arrested hundreds of demonstrators and used tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse them.
Independent research firm Merdeka Center said Najib`s popularity has slipped after the opposition-backed rally, with the prime minister losing support among Chinese and middle-class voters. Support for Najib dipped in an opinion poll conducted in May but was still above 60 percent, the centre said.
Some analysts have said the strong show of force by the opposition could rattle Najib`s confidence and prompt him to delay calling polls.