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Mahathir confident of ruling coalition's victory in May general election

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, has expressed confidence that the ruling coalition will retain power in the upcoming general election to be held in May.

Speaking at a talk show aired on a local channel late Wednesday, Mahathir said he is sure that the ruling coalition, National Front, will win Malaysia's 13th general election, which is widely deemed as the least predictable since the country's independence in 1957.

However, he was cautious on National Front's chance to retake the two-thirds majority in parliament that it lost in the previous election in 2008.

"The chance is 50-50, but the National Front will definitely perform better than in 2008," he said.

The 87-year-old has been campaigning vigorously across the country for the National Front and its dominant component party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

He has also engaged with the opposition in war of words, urging some senior opposition leaders to retire "as he did."

Mahathir stepped down in 2003 after 22 years of premiership. Mahathir is likely to win hearts of many of voters of the Malay majority for the ruling coalition with his charisma, but he may also alienate some non-Malay voters with his pro-Malay comments.

Lim Kit Siang, a senior opposition figure, has urged Mahathir to stop "race-baiting and inciting communal sentiments."

Mahathir's active campaigning in the run-up to the general election this year serves as a sharp contraction to the election in 2008, when he was opposing his successor and then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Mahathir quit UMNO later the year, only rejoined after Abdullah stepped down a year later.

The opposition alliance is now headed by Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir's former deputy. Anwar fell out with Mahathir in 1998 and was thrown into jail for corruption and sodomy charges.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130411/mahathir-confident-ruling-coalitions-victory-may-general-election