Malaysian general elections set for 5 May

Supporters of the ruling National Front coalition Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is leading the opposition

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A general election will be held in Malaysia on 5 May, the Election Commission said, in what is seen as a major test for Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition.

The governing party has been in power for a 56-year period. However, the opposition has been gaining ground on a pledge to end corruption.

In 2008, the ruling National Front lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time.

Formal campaigning starts on 20 April.

Mr Najib dissolved parliament last week and will serve as caretaker prime minister until the elections.

In recent weeks, he has been highlighting Malaysia's economic successes under his leadership, as well as giving cash handouts.

On Saturday, he unveiled his manifesto pledging cash for the poor and more affordable living costs.

'Great survivor'

Opinion polls suggest a narrow win for the National Front. Mr Najib faces pressure to return the party to its two-thirds majority in parliament.

Many are predicting that this could be closest vote since independence from Britain 56 years ago, the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Bangkok reports.

Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the opposition, is seen as one of the great survivors of Malaysian politics, our correspondent adds.

Mr Anwar is part of a broad coalition which includes moderates, Islamists and Malaysians of Chinese descent.

Mr Anwar once served as deputy prime minister under the National Front, but fell out with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998.

He was jailed for misuse of power for six years, and charged with sodomy twice - although on both occasions he was cleared.

He has described the charges as politically motivated.

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