16 January, 2009

M'sian election official quits !

A TOP Malaysian election official has quit after the opposition made allegations of government dirty tricks including vote-buying and coercion in a hotly contested by-election.

Mat Razali Mat Kassim, the mayor of Kuala Terengganu, whom the Election Commission had appointed to oversee Saturday's by-election, had been accused of pressuring civil servants to vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Mohammad Yusof confirmed Mat Razali had quit late Thursday and said he had been under investigation, but declined to reveal the outcome of the probe.

'He has denied any wrongdoing but since he himself decided to resign, we have discussed it and we regretfully accepted his resignation,' he told a press conference.

The Islamic party PAS, which is fielding a candidate in the by-election on behalf of three three-member opposition alliance, had accused Mat Razali of abusing his position.

'On January 14, Mat Razali gathered about 593 voters in Kuala Terengganu comprising of civil servants and council workers,' PAS deputy state commissioner Wan Abdullah Muttalib Embong told a press conference.

'He told them that whoever does not vote Barisan Nasional is a traitor and whoever does not support Barisan Nasional can 'meet me and quit their jobs'.'

Deputy premier Najib Razak, who is leading the government's campaign in the by-election, welcomed the resignation.

'We don't want anyone to make allegations. We are afraid that if Barisan Nasional wins, (the opposition) will raise this as an issue. It's better that we solve this earlier with him withdrawing,' he told state media.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Thursday accused the government of buying votes for 300-400 ringgit (S$127-S$164) from Muslim Malays, who make up the majority of the electorate.

Opinion polls say that the Malay vote is split, and that the minority Chinese community, which makes up 11 percent of the population in the Kuala Terengganu electorate, is leaning towards the opposition.

Mr Wan Abdullah said the opposition is also now fearful of 'phantom votes' being cast by police who have been deployed in huge numbers in the capital of Terengganu state ahead of the vote.

'This is what we are worried about, there are so many policemen, some say there are about 7,000 to 10,000 of them,' he said, adding that many had been touring the city and playing beach football instead of manning their posts.

- The Straits Times


Malaysian by-election provides a crucial test of political strength

Malaysians are casting their eyes northwards this weekend to see where the political winds are blowing.

A by-election is being held in the seat of Kuala Terengganu which sits on Malaysia's north east coast. It's being seen as a test for both the government and the newly strengthened opposition, led by former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Will the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition overcome the drubbing from last year's general election? Or will it pave the way for Mr Anwar to proceed with his much-anticipated grab for power?

Presenter: Karen Percy
Speakers: Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Malaysian blogger; Professor Shamsul A-B, National University Of Malaysia

PERCY: There are three candidates running in Saturday's poll, but political observers see this very much as a two way race.

On the government's side, there is one Wan Rahid Wan Saheed, a 46 year-old senator and minister in the Barisan Nasional Government whose seeking a house of representative seat to help bolster the government's numbers there and there's Abdul Wahed Endud, from the Pan Islamic Party, who currently sits on the Opposition benches in the state parliament. It's likely to be a neck-and-neck race, that is signficant for both sides.

(Raja Petra Kamaruddin is one of Malaysia's leading bloggers.)

KAMARUDDIN: The Opposition is out to prove that the political tsunami, that the shift is still there and the ruling party is out to prove that the opposition winning streak is gone and now the opposition is going to begin going downhill. So I think both sides have something to prove here.

PERCY: In last year's general election, the government Coalition led by the United Malay National Organisation endured its worst electoral performance in 50 years what some called a "political tsunami" saw the Coalition lose its two thirds majority in parliament and control of several states.

Since then the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has taken some of the blame and after internal pressure has agreed to step down in March and handover to his deputy, Najib Razak.

(Professor Shamsul AB is from the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.)

SHAMSUL: I think that the attention has been shifted from the prime minister and to the so-called problem to UMNO, but now have a new one that everybody wants to give a chance. So I think this is interesting this forced transition I think is very critical for Barisan, and I don't think they have addressed all the issues yet, so this is why people think the election can be a measure of Najib or the prime minister-to-be popularity or accepted or so on.

PERCY: Mr Najib has been campaigning hard in Kalatwinganu in the hopes of keeping the seat in government hands.

In last year's poll in March, the government candidate, who has since died, won by fewer than a thousand votes. Mr Najib is also trying to assert himself as leader.

While the state of Terengganu has prospered on the back of the oil and gas industry, many voters in Kuala Terengganu are still desperately poor and live in rural areas.

Polls reveal that ethnic Malays who make up 87 per cent of the voters are spilt between the two candidates. That means the seat will be decided by the 9,000 Chinese voters. They swung away from the government in the March election last year, but there's no guarantee they will vote the same way this time.

Four months has passed since Anwar Ibrahim's self-imposed deadline to take over the government. He maintains he has the 30 plus members of parliament needed to bolster his ranks, but he has yet to act.

(Professor Shasul AB is from the Malaysia's National University.)

SHAMSUL: He has numbers, but I think he has problems with his numbers, because they need a lot of Malay-Muslim candidates, because otherwise his Opposition Party government will be dominated by non-Malay, non-Muslim candidate and I think this doesn't go well with probably with the ruling elite and the ruling royalties in this country. So these are things that was not explained to the public, nor to the international media why he is still not making the move, because he keeps shifting it. Because I think he may have got the support, but not really the quality of the supporters he needed.

PERCY: Blogger. Raja Petra Kamaruddin, explains what the problems are.

KAMARUDDIN: There are mixed feelings about this. Many people feel it is unethical for Anwar to gain power through crossovers. They feel that if Anwar wants to form the Federal Government, he should do so in a proper general election and not on 30 members of parliament from the government crossing over. Then there are people who feel that why do we want to absorb government members of parliament, when all the government members of parliament are everything we are opposed to, you know corruption, you name it, you know. So here we are opposing them on principle, and yet we absorb them into our ranks. Wouldn't this be unprincipled? So again there are people who are against it. They feel it is immoral, it is unethical, but then there are people who feel that Anwar should gain power at all cost.

( Source )

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