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Mar 20, 2008

Anwar: Cancellation of indelible ink cost us 15 seats


KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 - The Opposition alliance could have won up to 15 more parliamentary seats if the Election Commission had gone ahead with its plan to use indelible ink. This is the closest Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has come to alleging fraud during Election 2008

His comments in an interview with international news magazine, Newsweek, will reignite the debate on whether the PKR-DAP-PAS alliance could have done the unthinkable and swept Barisan Nasional out of power on March 8 if there had been a more level playing field. As it stands, the opposition alliance owns 82 of the 222 seats in parliament, up from the 20 it had in 2004.

Anwar, once the poster boy of the Asian renaissance and Newsweek’s Asian of the Year in 1998 was featured on the cover of the latest issue of the magazine under the heading: To Hell and Back. Anwar Ibrahim was Asia’s Most Celebrated Young Leader Before He Was Sent To Jail. Now He Is Back. Six pages are devoted to the return of Malaysia’s prodigal son, charting his fall from grace to his re-emergence as a major force in politics here.

In a question and answer segment, he said that he belonged to a small minority who sensed that the ground was shifting towards the Opposition.

What exactly, happened, on Election Day? he was asked. Anwar’s reply: “This was a defining moment for Malaysia. Nothing is going to be the same anymore. It is not unrealistic to imagine that we could actually have won a majority right then.

“If not for the cancellation of the indelible ink, we would have got 10 or 15 more seats."

The indelible ink and transparent ballot boxes were part of a plan by the EC to make elections fairer. But several days before the polls, the commission said that it was cancelling the use of the ink because several police reports had been lodged alleging a conspiracy to defraud the voting process on March 8.

Police said that quantities of the ink had been imported from Thailand and were going to be applied on voters’ fingers before they voted. This would have created chaos and raised questions about phantom voters.

The Malaysian Insider reported then that the ink plan was scuttled because legislation had not been passed to make its use compulsory for all voters.

Anwar’s assertion in the Newsweek interview suggests that he believes that in 10 to 15 constituencies, there were multiple voting or phantom voters.

On Tuesday, a Malaysian election watchdog launched an online petition to demand poll reforms, claiming that vote fraud and irregularities in recent elections had prevented the Opposition from taking power.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, said it was through “fraudulent” tactics that the ruling National Front coalition retained power.

The group of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations said the opposition, which won 82 seats, needed only 56,822 more votes to wrest the coalition’s 30 weakest seats to form the federal government, it said.

Mafrel, the election monitor, has said it too was concerned about certain practices and thought that it was disgraceful that the plan to use the ink was scrapped. It did not buy the argument that the use of the ink was a security issue.

Using an analogy, Mr Malek Hussin, the head of Mafrel, said that just because there were cases of credit card fraud in the country did not mean automatically nullify the use of credit card in transactions here.

In the Newsweek interview, Anwar was asked about his feelings towards former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. His reply was telling: “You brought up him, not me. I have forgotten him. He is old, he is not well and he is not an issue for me. I am not out to prove anything to him. In order to succeed, we have to look beyond him.’’ - THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER


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