Malaysian Parliament To Dissolve
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will dissolve Parliament, paving the way for early elections, the government news agency reported Wednesday.
Parliament speaker Mohamed Zahir Ismail announced in Parliament that the 192-seat body would be dissolved on Thursday and campaigning for a general election begin immediately, according to the national news agency Bernama.
Speculation about the dissolution of Parliament was rampant in the capital when Mahathir abruptly canceled a trip to South Africa and met with Malaysia’s constitutional monarch early Wednesday. The order dissolving Parliament has to be signed by the king.
Political observers had widely speculated that the 73-year-old, who has led this Southeast Asian nation for 18 years, would hold elections before the end of the year.
A general election is not required until June 2000, but many believe Mahathir hopes to capitalize on the rebounding economy and avoid 650,000 newly registered voters who come onto the registration rolls in January.
The elections, last held in 1995, were expected to be the most hotly contested elections in decades. Mahathir’s United Malays National Organization has been deeply divided since former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s firing last September.