KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, April 3 (UPI) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak dissolved Parliament Wednesday, readying the country for what could be hard-fought general elections.
In a national televised address, Najib, who heads the United Malays National Organization, asked all but two of the country's 13 states to also dissolve their state legislative assemblies so state elections can be held simultaneously with general elections, Bernama news agency reported. Najib completed four years in office Wednesday.
The next general elections would be the 13th since Malaysia, a Muslim-majority, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country, won independence in 1957 from Britain. The date for the election is to be set by the election commission.
Najib's UMNO leads the coalition of the Barisan Nasional or the National Front which has ruled the country since 1957 but this time the three-party People's Alliance led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim could put up a tough election fight.
About 13.3 million people would be eligible to vote in the election for 222 parliamentary seats. In the 2008 election, the Barisan Nasional failed to get a two-thirds majority, winning 140 seats, while opposition parties won 82 seats.
The Wall Street Journal said the opposition has called for a more open and transparent society.
"There is a high degree of uncertainty on the election outcome as large section of youth will be voting for the first time," Ibrahim Suffian, director at independent pollster Merdeka Center, told the Journal.
The Najib government has been seeking to achieve faster economic growth. The Journal said if the opposition wins more seats, it could encourage internal leadership challenge to Najib.
In his television address, Najib said the Barisan Nasional, if re-elected, would continue with its national transformation programs.
The Financial Times said Malaysia achieved economic growth of 5.6 percent in 2012, one of the best in Asia.
"This is the first election in Malaysia's history when the electorate will have a clear choice over whether to keep the longest running coalition in the world in power," Bridget Welsh, Malaysia expert at Singapore Management University, told the Financial Times.
In an interview with the newspaper last week, Najib, talking of corruption, said: "It is a scourge and we all have to fight it and it's going to be a hard battle."