Malaysia: Anwar's party warns of vote rigging

24 Aug 2008
PERMATANG PAUH, Malaysia: Malaysia’s opposition expressed concerns Sunday that the government may be resorting to fraud in a by-election this week to prevent opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from entering Parliament.
Sivarasa Rasiah, a vice president of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, accused the Election Commission of violating the law by using a new electoral roll that hasn’t been officially approved for Tuesday’s polling.
“They are using an illegal list. The Election Commission, which is custodian of the conduct of elections, is willfully violating the law,” Sivarasa told reporters.
Although the Election Commission is an independent body, critics often accuse it of acting on the government’s wishes.
Sivarasa said that under Malaysian law, any new list of voters must be publicly exhibited to allow for objections before its final approval.
A total of 949 voters who were listed in the last official roll approved in June are missing in the new roll, Sivarasa said. The party conducted checks and found that more than 800 of them are still living in the area but would become ineligible to vote because their names are missing, he said.
He did not say if the missing names are those of opposition supporters.
Sivarasa said the missing voters have been replaced with 861 new names, of which nearly half are nonresidents who would cast their votes by post.
The Election Commission insisted the new list is valid.
“The list has been approved by the Election Commission,” said its secretary, Kamarulzaman Mohamad Noor. He declined to comment further, adding that he would give further details on Monday.
A total of 58,459 voters are eligible to decide in a special election Tuesday whether to elect Anwar to Parliament. The election was called after Anwar’s wife, who held the Permatang Pauh seat, vacated it to allow her husband to contest it.
Anwar’s main challenger is a candidate from the ruling National Front coalition. But the charismatic opposition leader is widely expected to win the seat, which is in his hometown in northern Penang state, despite accusations that he sodomized a male aide. Anwar has denied the allegations, calling them part of a political conspiracy.
The Penang state government, which is run by Anwar’s opposition alliance, declared Tuesday a public holiday to facilitate voting.
Anwar sees his entry to Parliament as a springboard for his campaign to topple the government by Sept. 16 with defections from ruling party lawmakers.