Malaysians go to the polls in general elections
( dpa ) - Millions of Malaysians began casting their votes Saturday as political observers predicted several surprises in the country's 12th general elections.
A total of 7,950 polling stations were opened for more than 10.9 million registered Malaysian voters in an election which will likely see Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling National Front win an easy majority.
However, observers say there will likely be a significant drop in votes for the coalition, as a sluggish domestic economy and increasing disenchantment of minority ethnic groups cast a shadow over the government's promises of equality and a better standard of living for Malaysians.
Anger and frustration over Abdullah's failure to cut down corruption and reduce crime - promises he made upon taking office in November 2003 - may also draw votes to opposition candidates.
Saturday's elections are expected to see several key parliamentary seats hotly contested.
In a televised interview late Friday, Abdullah, who has called on Malaysians to give him more time to fulfil his promises, appealed to voters to consider their future when voting.
"Don't be emotional - think of our future, our children and grandchildren," he said.
Last year, tens of thousands of Malaysians took to the streets in massive public rallies to protest what they charged were irregularities in the election process, as well as to seek equal rights for minority ethnic groups.
Opposition candidates have called on voters to deny the coalition a two-thirds majority in the elections, a feat analysts say they will be hard-pressed to achieve as it is hampered by an electoral system favoring the ruling government.