Watchdog claims fraud bars Opposition from taking power, demands reforms

March 18, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: A Malaysian election watchdog launched an online petition Tuesday (18 Mar) to demand poll reforms, claiming that vote fraud and irregularities in recent elections had prevented the opposition from taking power.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, said it was through “fraudulent” tactics that the ruling National Front coalition retained power in the 8 Mar polls with only a simple majority of 140 out of 222 seats in the federal Parliament.
The group of opposition parties and non-governmental organizations said the opposition, which won 82 seats, needed only 56,822 more votes to wrest the coalition’s 30 weakest seats to form the federal government, it said.
“The opposition parties might have won the elections outright if it was in fact clean, free, fair and transparent,” Bersih said on its Web site.
The opposition also won control of five out of 13 state governments, dealing the biggest upset to the National Front in its 51-year rule.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said the opposition’s gains proved elections were clean. But Bersih said “such a claim is as ridiculous as the assertion that cancer is not a killer because some patients survive the disease.”
The group appealed to Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, King Mizan Zainal Abidin, to appoint a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform to overhaul the electoral process and to investigate allegations of fraud and misconduct in the March elections.
Bersih cited gerrymandering and said the electoral roll contained irregularities, such as names of people who were dead, falsely registered to vote or registered multiple times in different areas.
Nazri Aziz, the minister in charge of parliament, dismissed Bersih’s claims, saying the opposition could not have made such big gains had elections been rigged.
“They are talking nonsense,” he said.
Bersih accused the Election Commission of bias and protested the commission’s move to cancel plans to use indelible ink to prevent multiple voting just three days before polling day.
It also charged that postal votes for military and police personnel were non-transparent and can be easily rigged. (AP)