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Feb 14, 2008

Malaysian Opposition parties attack Abdullah for advancing polls


Kuala Lumpur (PTI): Attacking Premier Abdullah Badawi for calling snap polls, Malaysian Opposition parties on Thursday hoped the public disenchantment with his administration, including protests by ethnic Indians seeking better treatment, would deny him a two-thirds majority in the March 8 elections.

The opposition parties' criticism of the poll timing came as the Election Commission announced that the exercise would be held on March 8 to elect 222 legislators to Parliament, which was dissolved by Abdullah yesterday to pave the way for the general elections, one year ahead of schedule.

"Come out and vote, don't sleep .... I want to see a free and fair election," Election Commission Chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman told reporters.

The March 8 elections will see Abdullah's Barisan Nasional coalition challenged by three main opposition parties -- dissident former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan, the left-leaning Democratic Action Party and the Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia.

Abdullah's coalition is expected to emerge as the winner but with a reduced majority, despite increasing religious and political tensions, including massive protests by ethnic Indians alleging marginalisation.

However, opposition parties have expressed the hope that public disenchantment with Abdullah's administration would deny it a two-thirds majority in the new Parliament.

"We will start the election campaign with enough confidence for the first time to deny the government's two-third majority," Anwar said.

Anwar, who was jailed in 1998 on corruption and sodomy charges, said the government was attempting to sideline him by holding the polls a month before he is eligible to contest. He has been barred from politics until April.


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