30 April, 2007

Anwar alleges fraud in poll loss

Anwar Ibrahim has alleged electoral fraud after he suffered a blow to his political comeback when his opposition party was defeated by the government in a by-election.

The weekend poll for a state assembly seat took on national importance when Anwar used it to re-enter politics before a general election expected this year. The contest was seen as a proxy fight for the future leadership of Malaysia between Anwar and Najib Razak, the deputy prime minister. Both men headed the campaigns for their parties' candidates.

His People's Justice party said it would lodge a protest over alleged irregularities in the by-election.

The National Front government increased its majority (from the 2004 general election) in Ijok district, winning 59 per cent of the votes after spending heavily on infrastructure projects there.

Anwar has said he will stand against Abdullah Badawi, the prime minister, in the next election and had hoped the Ijok polls would revive the fortunes of his party, which lost four of its five parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election.

Analysts say he has no hope of regaining power unless he rejoins the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), from which he was ousted in 1998. Abdullah and Najib have opposed his return to Umno, but he still enjoys support among the party's ranks.

Anwar's re-entry into Umno could pose a threat to Najib's hopes of succeeding Abdullah as prime minister. During the Ijok election, Anwar raised questions about Najib's possible link to a murder case and allegations over military procurement deals overseen by Najib in his role as defence minister.

The allegations have threatened to weaken his standing in Umno.

Najib denies any association with the murder victim, a Mongolian beauty who was the mistress of Razak Baginda, a political analyst close to Najib.

The analyst and two government bodyguards are due to go on trial in June for their alleged roles in the murder.

The defence ministry last week denied allegations by Anwar that hefty commissions had been paid to middlemen in its purchase of Russian aircraft and French submarines.

I am sad for Malaysia - Anwar

Former deputy premier and PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim in response to his party’s defeat in the Ijok by-election.

“I have been talking about the fraudulent process all the while but I did not think it was going to be so bad … intimidation and blatant bribery … the whole conduct of the election today,” he said.

Top Keadilan leaders were absent when the results were announced. Anwar said the by-election was ridden with phantom voters and police harassment against the opposition.

“We will launch an official protest on a charge of fraudulent conduct of the election,” he said.

However Election Commission secretary Kamaruzaman Mohamad Nor had earlier dismissed the oppositions allegations.

“There are no phantom voters,” he said. “You have to follow our (electoral) list,” he said.

“The confusion arised because they used another electoral list,” he added, referring to the commission’s official list of voters.

The ruling coalition has fended off a spirited opposition campaign led by Anwar to retain the semi-rural Ijok seat in Selangor with an increased majority.

Reflecting on the party’s loss, Anwar said he remained optimistic of the people’s support for PKR.

“It is a very good turning point as I was able to articulate our views but we are dealing with a dirty process here,” Anwar said.



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