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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   6 May 2013  

Malaysia's Barisan Nasional wins polls

Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) retained its 56-year hold on power in hard-fought elections on Sunday, with the final tally of 133 seats or 59.91 per cent of votes.

But opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim refused to concede defeat claiming the victory was tainted.

The BN (National Front) coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak got well past the threshold of 112 seats for a simple majority in parliament, with the opposition taking 89 seats.

Anwar's PKR (Pakatan Rakyat) took 30 seats and 13.51 per cent of votes.

As for the other parties, the final results give DAP 38 seats (17.12 per cent) and PAS 21 seats (9.46 per cent).

Najib called for a spirit of "reconciliation" after the polls, which saw record voter turnout and were preceded by a fierce campaign that laid bare deep polarisation in the country.

"For the sake of national interest, I ask all parties, especially the opposition, to accept this result with an open heart," Najib told a press briefing.

"Overall, the results show a trend of polarisation which worries the government. If it is not addressed, it can create tension or division in the country."

But Anwar, whose three-party alliance had hoped to pull off a stunning win against the only government Malaysia has known, was in no mood to concede.

"It is an election that we consider fraudulent and the EC (Election Commission) has failed," an exhausted-looking Anwar told reporters after the announced returns dashed early hopes among his supporters that victory was at hand.

Voters took to the Internet in droves to accuse Najib's government of trying to steal the election, as indelible ink that he touted as a guarantee against voter fraud was found to easily wash off.

Videos, pictures and first-hand accounts of purportedly foreign "voters" being confronted at polling centres by angry citizens also went viral online.

Opposition officials said Pakatan would explore possible legal avenues over such allegations, but the poll result is likely to stand as court challenges that threaten the ruling regime's hold rarely gain traction.

Najib had been under pressure from conservatives in his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Barisan's dominant force, to regain seats lost in 2008 polls when Pakatan stunned the ruling bloc with its worst setback ever.

There have been warnings that he could face a leadership challenge within UMNO if he fell short.

Najib appears to have failed to improve, but did not lose significant ground in parliament, and Barisan gained back one of four states - Kedah - held by the opposition. Malaysia has 13 states.

The ruling coalition retained the states of Perlis, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Terengganu, Perak, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

Najib said he didn't expect such a big "tsunami" of Chinese voters to turn against the Barisan Nasional, but said he was satisfied.

"We realised lots of things we have to do as a party, that includes looking at set up and way we do things in UMNO, as well as our component parties. Give us a bit of time, we need time to analyst the result so that the course of action that will be taken will be appropriate action," he said.

He said he was worried about polarisation in the country, but called on Malaysians on all sides of the political divide to accept the result.

"We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy. Whatever happens, the rule of the people must be respected. And we as BN respect the will of rakyat, of the people," he said.

The opposition, however, said they were disadvantaged by an unfair vote.

Anwar said: "We want the Election Commission to give a satisfactory answer, why this fraudulent process was being condoned or done, and they are or they were, complicit to the crime. You see, this irregularities has cost us many seats particularly those with narrow margin.

Despite not achieving their goal of forming the federal government, the Pakatan Rakyat retained its stronghold - the economically vibrant state of Penang as well as Kelantan and Selangor.

Mr Anwar himself won his Permatang Pauh seat in Penang, but with a reduced majority.

His daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar retained her Lembah Pantai seat, defeating Minister of Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being, Raja Nong Chik Zainal.

Nik Abduh, the son of PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat won the parliamentary seat of Pasir Mas in Kelantan. He beat Ibrahim Ali - the controversial leader of Malay-rights group Perkasa.

Still, the opposition inflicted its biggest upset may just have come in the southern state of Johor.

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang beat long-time Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman by over 14,000 votes in the parliamentary seat of Gelang Patah.

That's a move analysts say will send reverberations across the Peninsula, given Johor's reputation of being a BN votebank.

Najib said he will now focus on national reconciliation.

"Najib is secure for at least another term," said James Chin, a research fellow with Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Najib also has been squeezed by rising public pressure for reform, to which he has responded with some limited liberalisation moves.

He had called for voters to give him his first mandate -- Najib was installed in 2009 when his predecessor was dumped over the 2008 result -- so that he could continue his reform agenda.

Critics have called his moves a superficial response to public pressure that have avoided deep reform.

The commission said a record 80 percent of the multi-ethnic country's 13 million registered voters -- or more than 10 million people -- had turned out Sunday.

Sunday's outcome raises the spectre of an end to the charismatic Anwar's remarkable career, after he earlier vowed to step aside as opposition leader if he failed to win the long-awaited election.

Anwar was deputy premier until his ouster in a 1998 power struggle with then-premier Mahathir Mohamad and jailing for six years on sex charges widely viewed as trumped up, events that deeply polarised Malaysian politics.

Anwar later brought his pan-racial appeal to the once-divided opposition, dramatically reversing its fortunes.

After leading Pakatan to historic gains in 2008 polls in which it denied Barisan its powerful two-thirds majority for the first time ever, Anwar had aimed to topple the regime on Sunday.

Pakatan has gained traction with pledges to end ruling-party corruption and authoritarianism, and to reform controversial affirmative-action policies for majority Malays that Anwar says are abused by a corrupt Malay elite.

But Najib's ethnic Malay-dominated regime retains powerful advantages, including control of traditional media, key institutions and an electoral landscape which critics say is biased in its favour.

Among irregularities alleged by the opposition, Anwar has said tens of thousands of "dubious" and possibly foreign voters were flown to key constituencies to sway results. The government denies the charge.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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