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Date: 18 Nov 1999
Mahathir admits problems for ruling coalition in northern Malaysian
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (AFP) - Malaysia's ruling National Front faces problems in three states in the northern ethnic Malay heartland but will still win the November 29 polls, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad predicted Thursday.
"We are not denying that we are facing problems in the three states (Kedah, Terengganu and Perlis)," he told local editors.
"We faced the same problems in the previous elections but the results were different from what had been predicted by analysts."
Mahathir said Sunday his coalition would focus its campaign on four northern states -- Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
Kelantan, governed since 1990 by the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), is the only opposition-controlled state. The Islamic party has expressed hopes of capturing the three extra states in the polls for parliament and state assemblies.
Mahathir, quoted by the state Bernama news agency, also said at least 30 percent of his coalition's candidates would be new faces. They included former members of the breakaway Parti Melayu Semangat 46 who have rejoined the United Malays National Organisation, the dominant partner in the National Front.
He said former close associates of Anwar Ibrahim, his sacked and jailed ex-deputy premier, could also become candidates. Nomination day is Saturday.
"Previously, even though they were close to Datuk Seri Anwar, they were loyal to the party. If they have been sincere and loyal to the party, they will be selected as candidates," he said.
Mahathir is expected to face a tougher than usual test after Anwar's treatment split the ethnic Malay community. But the premier said he regarded the 1990 election as more challenging since there had been no exodus from UMNO over the Anwar issue.
The premier, for the third time in five days, predicted that the opposition alliance would try to stir up election trouble.
"We anticipate attempts by the opposition to disrupt the smooth conduct of the election, especially a few days before polling, on realising they have a slim chance to win," he said.
He said the government also expected the opposition to engage "gangsters" to disrupt National Front meetings and campaigning.
Anwar's wife Wan Azizah, head of the opposition National Justice Party, said Wednesday Mahathir was raising the prospect of riots to scare the ethnic Chinese electorate into voting "for continuing supposed stability."