Saturday, February 23, 2008

Malaysian Islamists Warn Of Tension Ahead Of Polls

Malaysia's hardline Islamic opposition party has warned its supporters could "run amok" if the election authorities block its candidates from standing in next month's general election.

Saying that Malaysia should avoid post-election violence that gripped Kenya, leaders of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) told a rally late on Friday that the March 8 election could turn into one of the country's dirtiest.

"We anticipate this election will not be free and fair," party leader Syed Azman Syed Ahmad told the 5,000-strong rally in Kuala Terengganu, the northeastern city that saw a violent anti-government protest last September.

On Sept. 8, police opened fire to disperse rioters at a rally demanding electoral reforms, wounding two PAS members. Twenty-three people were arrested.

With the exception of 1969, when a divisive poll led to the country's worst race riots, Malaysian elections have largely been peaceful. But recent months have seen the biggest street protests in years, targeting Malaysia's electoral system.

The Barisan Nasional coalition, effectively in office since independence from Britain in 1957, is widely expected to hold on to power in the March 8 poll, though with a reduced majority.

The Election Commission denies the electoral system favours Barisan Nasional, but the opposition says electoral boundaries are drawn unfairly and electoral rolls stuffed with "phantom voters".

The opposition also says it has no access to pro-government media.

In the latest complaint against the panel, the opposition said it was unhappy over an 11th-hour ruling stipulating that would-be candidates must pay a stamp duty for a statutory declaration for their nomination papers.

Nominations for the March 8 polls will be accepted on Sunday. The election authorities said they were enforcing the ruling for the first time since it was introduced in 1981.

"The sudden ruling could be pretext to disqualify our candidates," PAS Vice-President Mohammad Sabu told reporters.

His party, which is trying to retain power in neighbouring Kelantan state, has said it would also contest 65 of the total 222 Parliament seats.

"If the Election Commission rejects the nomination papers, we will run amok," he said. "But we don't want this election to end up as in Kenya."

A disputed Dec. 27 presidential election triggered political and tribal violence in Kenya in which more than 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 were displaced.

PAS said it would hold large and sustained street protests if dozens of its candidates were disqualified by the Election Commission, despite a police ban on illegal protests.

"We will get half a million people in Kuala Lumpur to gather for several days," Sabu said. (Reuters India)

Mohammad Sabu's amok threat is mere bunkum and does little for PAS' image or credibility. It might find resonance among a small number of amok-prone Malays but will add to the many reservations Malaysians generally have about PAS. When will they learn to avoid foot-in-mouth speeches?
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am following the US election. Whatever failings their system may have, at least there's fair coverage on both sides and issues are discussed unlike here where the once every 4 year election is only given 1 month for campaigning and even then it's all one-sided. How fair is that?

11:48 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't blame them! It's pure frustration for them!
We all know how "fair" our Elections are!
Postal Votes, Phantom Voters, One-sided Media Coverage & now this "last minute" Stamp Duty requirement!
How are the Opposition Candidates in Kelantan, Terengganu & Kedah going to get their Stamps on Fri & Sat (it's the weekend for them & the Post Offices will I am sure be shut)? There is not enough time on Nomination Day (Sunday).
The BN is getting desperate & so they are now using the EC to "legally" disqualify the Opposition Candidates!
I have never been a fan of PAS but in this case, I don't blame them one bit!

2:01 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Monsterball said...

Malay politicians , of whatever stripe, who help perpetuate the Malay Amok stereotype are doing their cause a great disservice.

Do they really want to continue the colonial image of Malays as ignorant, unstable, irrational peasants ?

3:24 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Chauncey Gardener said...

Malay leaders, from both sides of the divide should focus on the following, in this particular order :

1)The social and economic interests of Malaysia
2)Religious duties and obligations while accepting other religions

Race should not be a factor. Our founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman fit this best.

3:31 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a PAS fan. What choice do PAS have if the system is unfair & you cann't do anything about it??

In fact, not only PAS should run amok, the Indians & Chinese should also run amok if similar cases happened to them.

10:02 AM GMT+8  

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