Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian ruling party encourages voter participation

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysia's ruling coalition is trying to prevent a by-election from being marred by low voter turnout after opposition parties said they would boycott the poll, news reports said yesterday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front is expected to easily win tomorrow's election for a legislative seat in Batu Talam in eastern Pahang state because the only other contender is a little-known independent candidate.

Key coalition leaders have flocked to the constituency in recent days for campaigning, even though Malaysia's main opposition groups are not contesting the by-election because of what they call suspicions of electoral fraud.

The government has insisted Malaysia's voting process is fair, and dismissed the opposition's move as a publicity stunt.

`MEANINGFUL VICTORY'

"The whole [coalition] machinery is working to make sure the voter turnout" is high, Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah's son-in-law, was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper.

"We are looking for a meaningful victory, not an empty win," Khairy added.

Coalition officials have expressed concerns that many supporters might not bother to vote because the National Front's candidate, Abdul Aziz Mat Kiram, is virtually assured victory over independent Ng Chee Pang.

The Election Commission says 10,525 people are eligible to vote.

The National Front has controlled the Batu Kiram seat -- as well as the majority of seats in Pahang's state legislature -- since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.

The by-election was announced after the death of the incumbent last month.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the country's biggest opposition group, and its ally, the People's Justice Party, said they would not contest the election, although they cited claims of discrepancies in the voter roll and fears the vote may not be transparent.

The opposition has made similar claims in past elections, but this is the first time in recent years that it has boycotted a poll.

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