Malaysian polls 'around the corner': report

Jan 6, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia’s election chief has reiterated that nationwide polls are “around the corner” despite speculation the government would hold back due to a host of problems, a report said Sunday.

“When I say the election is around the corner, you better believe me because it is not a joke,” Election Commission chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman told The Star daily, echoing comments made in November.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had been expected to call general elections early this year, but has his hands full with unprecedented street protests, a sex scandal, and public anger over high fuel and food prices.
However, The Star said that all the signs indicated polls would go ahead, as leave for police officers was frozen indefinitely in order to prepare for election practice runs.
The street rallies kicked off in November with a 30,000-strong protest calling for electoral reform, followed by a gathering of 8,000 people alleging discrimination against ethnic Indian Malaysians.
Five members of the Hindu Rights Action Force, which organised the rally, were last month detained without trial under controversial internal security legislation which is more commonly used against alleged Muslim militants.
In the latest act of defiance against the government, which is dominated by Muslim Malays who make up 60 percent of the population, some 300 people held a candlelight vigil Saturday night against the security laws.
They gathered despite a ban ordered by police, who prevented them from entering the capital’s Independence Square, and after a brief ceremony sent them scattering into the streets, with a blast from a water cannon.
“The ISA law is no longer relevant. A crime should be proved in a court of law, instead of denying people their human rights,” said H. Nandakumar, a 24-year-old engineer who attended the rally.
“People are starting to realise that the government is selected by us and we don’t need laws that are patronising. We can think for ourselves — we are not children,” he told AFP.
In other major problems for the government, public anger is running high over fuel price hikes and spiralling food prices. It has also been embarrassed by a sex scandal which forced the health minister to resign last week.