Malaysia's BN, opposition accuse each other of resorting to dirty tactics


Permatang Pauh, Penang: It is the final push to win the hearts and minds of voters on the eve of the parliamentary by-election in Permatang Pauh in Penang.

And both sides - the Barisan Nasional and the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) - are accusing each other of resorting to dirty tactics.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is the candidate for the Permatang Pauh by-election, said: "There is an attempt to discourage people from voting. You can sense from the deputy prime minister's statement, which should encourage people to vote, but he looked very depressed when the state government declared a holiday to ease and facilitate the... (voting process).

"Our concern is rigging because IC numbers have been taken. We have identified a list which is not gazetted; a list which should be used by the Election Commission now is not gazetted."

"Come out and vote on Tuesday" - that's Mr Anwar's clarion call as he made his final campaign rounds in the remote areas of Permatang Pauh. Joining him was his wife Wan Azizah, who vacated her seat so he can return to parliament.

While Mr Anwar's campaign focused on issues touching the lives of voters, the Barisan Nasional machinery highlighted the need for moral leaders in parliament - an obvious reference to the sodomy charge against Mr Anwar.

But the ruling coalition's candidate, Arif Shah Omar Shah, was also not spared from scandal.

He showed the media an SMS that had been sent to supporters and voters urging them to turn up at his house to collect payments, a move which he described as a mischievous attempt to label him as being involved in money politics.

Mr Arif Shah said he remains quietly confident of victory with a chance of achieving a vote margin of between 500 to 5,000.

He said: "The PAS supporters will also silently be giving support to either Akim or Barisan for the simple reason that when I was, and I'm still, the assemblyman for Seberang Jaya - I entertain most of the PAS peoples' problems also. Some of them do have feelings of appreciation and this time they give me the gift by giving me their votes."

Mr Arif Shah added that a victory for him will send the message that voters do not want to take risks with Malaysia's future.

Has the thought of losing dawned on Mr Anwar? "Not yet, but in this system, anything is possible. I am not talking about a fair election in this system," Mr Anwar said.

Malaysian political watchers say whichever way the results of the Permatang Pauh by-election go, it is bound to change the face of Malaysian politics.

A victory for Mr Anwar would mean a stronger voice for the opposition in the Malaysian legislature.

But if the Barisan Nasional candidate wins, observers feel this could probably cause a dent in the much-talked-about political tsunami in Malaysia after the March general elections.

- CNA/ir
S. Ramesh
Channel NewsAsia
26/08/08

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