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Malaysia bank analyst suspended after forecasting opposition win

KUALA LUMPUR -- A Malaysian bank economist who is a member of an opposition party said Tuesday he had been suspended after telling a forum that a narrow opposition win in hotly anticipated elections was “quite likely.”

Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin said “political pressure” on his employers at Bank Islam was likely the spark for his immediate suspension by the bank for an “alleged serious act of misconduct.”

“I'm shocked. Clearly, I'm a political victim,” Azrul, who has been a member of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat for more than a decade, told AFP.

Malaysians must vote by June this year in what analysts expect to be the stiffest challenge yet to the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain in 1957.

Azrul spoke last Thursday at a business forum in neighboring Singapore on the possible outcome of this year's polls.

“It's a fair analysis. I didn't do anything wrong. The outcome of (the election) may have an impact on the economy, so why shouldn't I analyze it? I was doing my job,” he said.

He said the letter set out no timeframe for the length of the suspension or gave other details.

A Singaporean newspaper and independent Malaysian news portal picked up his comments.

Bank Islam has distanced itself from Azrul's comment. It said an investigation of the alleged infraction would be conducted.

Azrul, however, has said he may resign.

Bank Islam is owned by Tabung Haji, a government-linked fund that facilitates pilgrimages to Mecca for Muslims, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's 29 million people.

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