Thursday, May 30, 2013

Anwar calls 500,000 to protest

DateMay 27, 2013             
Lindsay Murdoch

Lindsay Murdoch

South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gestures to his supporters
Fired up: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim leaves the rally outside Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Defying threats of arrest, organisers of anti-government rallies across Malaysia have called on 500,000 supporters to march on the country's Election Commission to protest against election fraud.

The call was made to tens of thousands of people at a packed stadium near Kuala Lumpur early on Sunday where Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim demanded that Election Commission officials who oversaw racially divisive national elections on May 5 resign immediately.

''Now, now, now,'' Mr Anwar shouted as the crowd roared.

Mr Anwar, a 65-year-old former deputy prime minister, said he planned to step-up a legal campaign over the results in 29 electoral districts after Monday's deadline for complaints to be lodged.

The three-party Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance won a majority of the popular vote at the election but the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was returned with 60 per cent of seats because of a gerrymandered electoral system that favours Malay Muslims in rural constituencies.

The rally was the ninth that has drawn large crowds since the elections, which the opposition says were unfair and marred by vote rigging, claims the government denies.

Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi called the latest rally a ''provocation'' but there has been no violence at any of the rallies as police have largely stayed away.

Four opposition politicians and activists have been arrested in the past few days on sedition and other charges, prompting opposition figures to vow to carry on with the protests.

''They are trying to frighten us into submission,'' said Azmin Ali, deputy president of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat. ''We must continue to stand up for our rights and dignity.''

No date for the march has been announced.

Meanwhile a secret pre-election pact between Mr Anwar and Prime Minister Najib Razak to respect the outcome of the election has emerged but both sides disagree on the details. Mr Najib has confirmed it was brokered by former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla.

Mr Anwar has acknowledged he made the pact in April but said it was rendered void by the way Barisan ran the campaign, singling out attacks on the opposition by the government-controlled media.

''How can you talk reconciliation when you demonise your opponent in this manner?'' Mr Anwar told the Asian Wall Street Journal, which broke the story of the pact.

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