Malaysia declares May 9 election day a holiday after outcry

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has declared May 9 a public holiday to enable voters to cast their ballots in tightly contested general elections.

The surprise move is seen as a bid to ease public anger a day after the Election Commission announced that voting will be held on a workday, departing from the norm of having it on a weekend. Critics have said the weekday vote plus a shorter campaign period could lower voter turnout and dent support for the opposition.

Najib’s office said Wednesday that May 9 will be a public holiday so that some 15 million voters can exercise their right.

Najib is seeking a third term in office and under pressure to improve his ruling coalition’s performance after support eroded in the last two elections.

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