Kuala Lumpur: Voting began on Sunday in a
critical by-election in a flood-hit bastion of Malaysian
ruling coalition, a poll which will test the popularity of
Prime Minister Najib Razak as speculation about a looming
snap general election grows.
The by-election was held in the semi-rural Tenang
constituency in southern Johor state after the death of a
state assemblyman from the United Malays National Organisation
(UMNO), the main party in Razak`s ruling coalition.
Meanwhile, continuous rain and rising floodwaters
forced 846 people from several villages in Tenang to be
evacuated to relief centres.
Heavy duty vehicles ferried voters through submerged
access roads to the polling centres in those areas.
Police are also prepared to deploy boats to ferry
voters should the situation worsen. All polling centres
remained open. Two days of non-stop rain in Johor Baru and
Kota Tinggi has caused floods in several locations with some
aeas witnessing the rise of water levels to knee high.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the rain
may affect the overall voter turnout but declined to say if
the expected 80 per cent turnout might be reduced.
The by-election pits the Barisan Nasional`s Mohamad
Azahar Ibrahim, 39, against Normala Sudirman, whose popularity
is on the rise within the conservative Islamic party (PAS), a
member of the opposition alliance.
Though the poll outcome will not alter power in the
state held by Barisan Nasional, a convincing victory could
prompt Razak to call for snap polls later this year.
During pre-poll campaigning the opposition candidate
Normala hit news headlines after declining to shake hands with
men, triggering debate across Malaysia`s racial and religious
Malaysia`s ethnic mix is composed of Chinese and
Indian minorities, who follow Buddhism, Christianity and
Hinduism among other religions, while the majority are Muslim