- Malaysia votes in ‘day of reckoning’
- BN faces fight of its life in this general election
- PKR foils dubious voter in Pandan, report lodged
Posted: 04 May 2013 11:18 PM PDT
Long lines and police on full alert as polarised nation votes in general elections cast as too close to call.
Malaysians are voting in elections that could see the coalition ousted after nearly 56 years in power [Reuters]
Voters have braved long lines in Malaysia to take part in a historic general election that is widely expected to go down to the wire.
Voting began at 8am local time [0000 GMT] at more than 8,200 polling centres across the country after a last-ditch campaign frenzy that went until the stroke of midnight. Polling stations close at 5pm [0900 GMT] on Sunday, with results expected to emerge within hours.
The run-up to the election has polarised the nation of 28m people, with the powerful ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, facing off against a revitalised opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim, looking to unseat its rival for the first time since independence from Britain in 1957.
A massive front-page headline on The Star newspaper proclaimed a "Day of Reckoning". The newspaper reported that bus and train terminals were swamped with voters traveling to their home districts to cast ballots.
"This election is crucial for the country. This is the first time there has been such a narrow margin. It's the first time that citizens are being heard by both sides. We are moving towards democracy," Shanaz Zain, 35, told Al Jazeera after casting his vote.
There are 13.3m registered voters in Malaysia.
‘We will be vigilant’
Both sides have expressed confidence in the outcome, but unofficial opinion polls have put the overall results as too close to call.
"It's fifty-fifty right now, nobody knows what will happen," said Frankie Gan Joon Zin, a candidate for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in Kuala Lumpur's tourist and nightlife district of Bukit Bintang.
The streets of the capital, even in Gan's usually bustling area, were quiet and security presence was light despite the bitter campaign marked by allegations of election fraud and hundreds of reports of violence by rights groups.
Police have banned all victory parades and street demonstrations after the results are announced. "We are on full alert to prevent any disturbances from happening, and all policemen have been ordered to maintain law and order at polling stations," Khalid Abu Baker, deputy inspector general of police, toldThe Star newspaper.
The opposition has already warned of a disputed result and has accused the ruling coalition of flying in tens of thousands of foreigners from South Asia to tip the balance in hard-fought constituencies.
The government said it had arranged some incoming flights, but said they were part of a voter-turnout drive.
Meanwhile, some voters have complained of fading indelible ink. The non-removable ink is being used for the time, but many have said using detergent or bleach can remove marks on fingertips, meaning voters could cast ballots more than once.
“I wash it with Dettol and the ink all came off, it should not come off according to the authority,” said Tan, a voter. “It’s not a problem for me, but what I think, there will be a lot of fraud will be perpetrated as a result of this removal of the ink.”
However, Ahmed Omar, deputy chariman of the election commission, said that “no fraud is possible” because “names only register once.”
At a rally last night, Anwar told supporters: "I warn the Election Commission and the government again that the people will not tolerate any electoral fraud. We will be vigilant of all suspicious activities.”
The 13-party ruling coalition, led by Razak, is banking on robust economic growth, averaging around 5 percent annually, and fears of instability brought on by a possible transfer of power. It has painted the opposition as fractious and pro-Islamic.
The three-party opposition, known as Pakatan Rakyat, has campaigned against corruption and vowed to roll-back a decades old quota system that favours ethnic Malays in schools, business contracts and civil service jobs.
"We've waited five years for this moment. I don't mind waiting a little longer," a voter who identified himself as Gary R, told Al Jazeera.
"The old world has to give way to the new."
On Sunday, Prime Minister Razak voted in his hometown Pekan, Pahang state, 240km east of the capital Kuala Lumpur, and opposition leader Ibrahim in his hometown Permatang Pauh, Penang state, northern Malaysia.
Posted: 04 May 2013 11:08 PM PDT
Malaysians vote on Sunday in an election that could weaken or even end the rule of one of the world’s longest-lived coalitions, which faces a stiff challenge from an opposition pledging to clean up politics and end race-based policies.
Led by former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition is aiming to build on startling electoral gains in 2008, when the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority.
The historic result signalled a breakdown in traditional politics as minority ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indians, as well as many majority Malays, rejected the National Front’s brand of race-based patronage that has ensured stability in the Southeast Asian nation but led to corruption and widening inequality.
Under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the blue-blood son of a former leader, the coalition has tried to win over a growing middle class with social reforms and secure traditional voters with a $2.6 billion deluge of cash handouts to poor families.
He can point to robust growth of 5.6 percent last year as evidence that his Economic Transformation Program to double incomes by 2020 is bearing fruit, while warning that the untested three-party opposition would spark economic ruin.
Najib, who is personally more popular than his party, has had some success in steadying the ship since he was installed as head of the dominant United Malays National Organisation (Umno) in 2009. Formidable advantages such as the coalition’s control of mainstream media, its deep pockets and a skewed electoral system make it the clear favourite.
But opinion polls suggest a tightening race that could further reduce the coalition’s majority and lead the opposition to dispute the result over claims of election fraud.
The opposition alliance has been buoyed by unusually large, enthusiastic turnouts at campaign rallies in recent days. It says its “X factor” may be a surge in young, first-time voters who are more likely to be attracted to its call for change after 56 years of rule by the BN coalition.
“The momentum is far greater in 2013,” Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s daughter and an opposition member of parliament, said at a meeting with journalists and foreign diplomats on Friday.
“I’ve never enjoyed so much support everywhere. That’s our only hope, to ensure a good turnout.”
A failure to improve on 2008′s performance, when the BN won 140 seats in the 222-seat parliament, could threaten Najib’s position and his reform programme. Conservative forces in Umno, unhappy with his tentative efforts to roll back affirmative action policies favouring ethnic Malays, are waiting in the wings to challenge his leadership.
Anwar’s last stand?
The election represents possibly the last chance to lead Malaysia for Anwar, a former rising UMNO star who was sacked and jailed for six years in 1998 following a feud with then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who remains an influential figure.
The 65-year-old former deputy prime minister says his corruption and sodomy conviction was trumped up. He received a new lease on political life last year when a court acquitted him of a second sodomy charge.
His alliance, which includes an awkward partnership between a secular ethnic Chinese party with an Islamist party, is riding a growing trend of civil-society activism, which has been most evident in a series of big street protests in recent years calling for reform of the electoral system.
A clumsy police response to a rally in 2011 led Najib to roll back draconian colonial-era security laws, though critics say he did not go far enough and demands for electoral reform have not been fully addressed.
A narrow victory for the ruling coalition on Sunday would almost certainly spark opposition complaints of voter fraud, which could spill over in street protests. Anwar has accused the coalition of flying up to 40,000 “dubious” voters across the country to vote in close races.
The opposition, which can present a viable alternative from its record of governing in four states it took over in 2008, is running on a platform of transparency and integrity, saying it will break down an entrenched network of patronage that has grown up between UMNO and favoured business tycoons.
It pledges to replace policies favouring ethnic Malays in housing, business and education with needs-based assistance.
It can bank on ethnic Chinese voters, who make up about 25 percent of Malaysians and who abandoned the ruling BN coalition in 2008. Maintaining its momentum among ethnic Malay voters may be more difficult amid warnings from the BN that they would be at risk from Chinese economic domination if the opposition won.
“We’ve seen a consolidation of Chinese support. I think the question for us to a large extent is how the silent majority of Malay voters will go,” said Ong Kian Ming, who is running for a seat in an ethnically diverse constituency near Kuala Lumpur.
Posted: 04 May 2013 11:04 PM PDT
A dubious voter in Pandan, Selangor, was turned away from the polling station after PKR polling agents objected, PKR Pandan candidate Rafizi Ramli (below) said.
He said Pandan voter Seok Leong Yew alerted his team to the dubious voter, whose registered address was the same as Seok’s.
"We have circulated all the suspicious IC numbers to our polling agents. So as soon as the polling clerk read out his IC number, our polling agent objected.
"Since our agents objected (to the dubious voter), he left without voting. We could not to stop him," Rafizi told a press conference outside the Ampang district police headquarters before going inside to lodge a police report over the matter.
The incident was reported taking place at the polling centre at a Taman Dagang religious school.
Accompanying him to lodge the report is Seok and another Pandan voter Sivaprakasam Kuruppiah, who also found out today that there are unknown voters registered at his residential address.
Letters addressed to ‘phantoms’
Seok told reporters that he found six hand-delivered slips in his mailbox at 9am today when he returned home from voting, which instructs each Pandan voter in the household which polling station and polling stream to go to.
However he did not recognise four of the six addressees, and claims he has lived at the address since the house's completion 25 years ago and had never rented it out or sold it.
Meanwhile, Sivaprakasam said he had received three of the instruction slips, but did not recognise two of them, which were Chinese names.
He and his family, all Indians, have similarly occupied the house continuously for 14 years since it was completed.
While not ruling out the possibility of clerical error on the Election Commission's (EC) part, Rafizi expressed concern that they could also be phantom voters, especially in view of fresh complaints that the indelible ink meant to deter such fraud have been widely reported by voters to be completely washable.
"Let's see what the EC has to say. What is important is that we are making a police report so that the police can summon these people and the EC can do the rest of the work.
"I am sure the EC will have a good reason for this," he said.
Not detaining phantoms
Rafizi added that although the instruction slips had BN's logo on them, the information is identical with that on the EC's database that PKR also uses.
Rafizi added that to avoid any untoward incidents, he has instructed his election workers not to detain the alleged dubious voters, but only to take photographs of the voter and their IC to facilitate investigations later.
“I am concerned that if we detain them for long, the issue of phantom voters would be buried if it escalates into violence, since our workers have no legal standing to detain them.
“The important issue now is about phantom voters, and I don’t want to risk a confrontation,” he said.
In Cheras, DAP incumbent Tan Kok Wai said voters at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Segar caught a suspicious foreign-looking man who tried to vote at 9am.
Tan said the suspect produced his MyKad to prove that he is a Malaysian, but a member of the public said he does not believe him and handed the man to the police.
“However, a few men tried to intervene and insisted that the suspect be allowed to vote. I arrived at the scene and saw the suspect being taken to the polling centre to vote,” Tan said.
“However, the hundreds of voters there shouted “hantu, hantu” (phantom, phantom) and the suspect felt overwhelmed by the angry voters and left the centre without casting his vote,” Tan said.
His party workers, he added, were monitoring the situation. Video clips and pictures of the incident have gone viral on the Internet.
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