Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Anwar's Path To Power
ASIA-PACIFIC Malaysia votes
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Malaysia’s opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) is expected to eat into the ruling coalition party’s vote (Getty Images) Voting has opened in Malaysia's general elections thought to hand the ruling coalition another victory but with a reduced majority, as ethnic Chinese and Indians shift to the opposition.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi won a landslide victory in 2004 polls, but now faces public anger over high inflation, rising crime rates and ethnic tensions in the multicultural nation.
Asked when he cast his vote whether the Barisan Nasional coalition, led by Malays who dominate the population, would retain a two-thirds majority in parliament, he said only: "Insya-Allah (God willing)".
Pollsters say the opposition, rallied by former deputy premier Anwar
Ibrahim who has stormed back onto the political stage after being sacked and jailed in 1998, could double its presence to 40 seats in the new 222-seat parliament.
But they say the three opposition parties, which have formed a loose alliance, are unlikely to claim the 75 seats they need to prevent the coalition from amending the constitution at will.
Human rights campaigners warn of illegitimacy
Rights monitors and opposition leaders have warned the coalition, which has ruled for half a century, may use phantom voters and manipulate postal votes in tightly fought seats, but Abdullah has rejected the allegations.
"Enough of that. They are just looking for excuses in the event they do not win," he said in his Kepala Batas constituency in the island state of Penang.
"I am confident that everything will go on smoothly today. The question of rigging need not arise. Why are they thinking about that?
Do they think we are cheats?"
Police laid on a heavy security presence at the Kepala Batas polling station, in a village surrounded by paddy fields and coconut trees, and made up of traditional stilted Malay houses.
"We should have a strong government. I am happy with Abdullah's leadership," said Ann Idris, 46, a Muslim Malay woman wearing the traditional headscarf who was lining up to vote.
“There is no need for a strong opposition to play the role of check and balance. The government can police itself."
Opposition rallies support
Elsewhere in Penang late Friday, the charismatic Anwar delivered a
thundering speech to thousands of supporters, mostly ethnic Chinese who dominate the population there.
"We have no choice but to defeat the ruling government at all costs to save our country," Anwar told the crowd.
"In these 2008 polls, Malays, Chinese and Indians have to unite to ensure the Barisan Nasional falls," he roared. "It must be a battle by the people to throw out corrupt leaders."
Battle lines are drawn
A major battleground in the campaign is the northern state of Kelantan, the only state the Barisan Nasional (BN) does not hold and which it is hoping to snatch from the Islamic party which has ruled there for 18 years.
"I am very confident of winning if there is real democracy in Malaysia and there is transparency in the system," Kelantan chief minister Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said as he cast his ballot in the state capital Kota Bharu.
"PAS should retain control because we have done a good job, honoured God's word and carried out Islamic doctrines," said Niz Aziz, who is also the spiritual leader of the fundamentalist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
Dressed in traditional white flowing robes and turban, he warned against a vote for the coalition, which has promised billions of dollars in development funds for the impoverished state.
"If BN takes control, they will dismantle everything we have done and there will be mixing of the sexes and the removal of halal practices," he said.