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Malaysia Prepares for Elections

January 17, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling coalition will meet after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to discuss preparations for a general election, news reports said Sunday.

Mohamed Rahmat, secretary-general of the ruling Barisan National Coalition, did not indicate when elections would be held, saying the prime minister would choose the date.

Mohamed, who is also information minister, called on coalition parties to prepare their election machinery now.

``Even though Barisan is strong and does not face any problem in winning the election we cannot afford to be complacent and rest on our laurels,″ Mohamed was quoted as saying in the Star newspaper.

Analysts have interpreted recent events in Malaysia as indications that general elections, scheduled for April 2000, may be called earlier.

The 73-year-old Mahathir abruptly reshuffled his Cabinet earlier this month and announced ambitious plans for a nationwide tour to come after the Muslim holy month.

Mahathir named longtime Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as his deputy prime minister and assured he would oversee a smooth transition of power. The post had been vacant since Mahathir fired Anwar Ibrahim in September.

Mahathir, Malaysia’s leader for 18 years, has often spoken about retirement. He blamed the recession and domestic politics for staying in power.

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