Malaysia's forthcoming general election is drawing more than ordinary interest. With the dissolution of Parliament today, the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak's United Malays National Organisation (Umno), is expected to pull out the stops to defeat the re-energised opposition. Datuk Seri Najib's nemesis is his one-time mentor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country's longest-serving prime minister. So intense has been the political contest in recent years that Dr Mahathir, who stepped down in 2003 after 22 years at the helm, is seeking to return to the top post at the age of 92.
The country's majority Muslims will now have to weigh their traditional loyalties to the incumbent Umno against the appeal of Malay majority parties such as Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Malaysia's Islamist party, commonly known as PAS.