Malaysians vote, with power at stake for first time

Malaysia's upstart opposition scored some successes Sunday in early returns from a bitter election fight against a regime that is battling to avoid losing power for the first time in history.

The opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim picked up a handful of new parliamentary seats and was claiming at least a half-dozen more with only a quarter of the results out six hours after polls closed.

Malaysians voted in record numbers in the general election, the first in the country's history to offer the prospect of a possible change of government, but the hotly anticipated day was dogged by accusations of electoral irregularities.

The Barisan Nasional (National Front) ruling coalition -- which has ruled since independence in 1957 -- raced out to an expected early lead as results for its strongholds in the east of the country came in first.

It captured 39 seats to 16 for the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) as of 1500 GMT, according to the Election Commission (EC).

But Pakatan celebrated the addition of several new seats and expressed increasing confidence as results trickled in.

The Election Commission said a record 80 percent of the multi-ethnic country's 13 million registered voters -- or more than 10 million people -- had turned out. Analysts have said high turnouts could benefit the opposition.

"There is clearly, undeniably, a major groundswell and a major shift among the population across ethnic lines," Anwar, 65, said after he voted earlier Sunday in his constituency in the northern state of Penang.

"Inshallah (God willing), we will win."

Voters swamped the Internet with accusations that Prime Minister Najib Razak's government sought to steal the election, as indelible ink that he touted as a guarantee against fraud was found to easily wash off.

The complaints added to a host of opposition allegations of fraud that have raised the spectre of a disputed result.

Najib's 13-party Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition is favoured to barely keep power.

But the charismatic Anwar, a one-time heir-apparent to leadership of Barisan, led Pakatan to historic gains in 2008 polls and the bloc is now gunning for a landmark victory.

Pakatan has gained traction with pledges to end ruling-party corruption and authoritarianism, and to reform controversial affirmative-action policies for majority Malays that Anwar says are abused by a corrupt Malay elite.

Najib has offered limited political reforms but a largely stay-the-course vision for the mainly Muslim nation.

The ink was introduced for the first time and touted by Najib as proof of his commitment to fair polls. It is applied to a person's finger to show they have cast ballots, preventing multiple voting.

But voters like Halim Mohamad, 77, said the ink washed right off even though it is supposed to last several days.

"This is cheating. I was shocked when it came off," he told AFP after voting in Penang, adding that Election Commission officials shrugged it off.

The opposition had already alleged numerous irregularities including a charge that tens of thousands of "dubious" and possibly foreign voters were flown to key constituencies to sway results. The government denies the charge.

Anwar was deputy premier until his ouster in a 1998 power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad, and his jailing for six years on sex charges widely viewed as trumped up.

He later brought his pan-racial appeal to the once-divided opposition, dramatically reversing its fortunes.

Najib's ethnic Malay-dominated regime retains powerful political advantages, including control of traditional media, key institutions and an electoral landscape which critics say is biased.

"It's a tight run. But I'm not scared, I'm excited," retiree H.Y. Ong said of the race before voting in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

"The times have changed, they (the government) need to change. Money politics should be controlled," he added, while not divulging his voting preference.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • 15 wounded in 2 explosions in restive southern Philippines

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least 15 people have been wounded in two separate blasts that hit a police camp in a restive southern Philippine province where Muslim militants operate, police said Saturday. …

  • 15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp
    15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp

    Fifteen people including 10 police officers were wounded in an attack on a mosque at police camp on a remote Philippine island long plagued by Islamic militancy, officials said on Saturday. Successive blasts targeted the mosque inside Camp Kasim on the island of Jolo early evening Friday -- an initial grenade attack followed by a bomb explosion less than 10 minutes later that was intended to target police who rushed to the scene, local authorities said. "It seems the (first) explosion was set …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. However, there is no word yet if the Philippines will specifically ask Tokyo to join calls for China to stop its massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options