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February 14, 2009

Malaysian: April by-elections a test for government

Malaysia's coalition government faces two critical by-elections in April which the opposition Friday said would be a "referendum" on Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak's leadership.

AFP quoted the Election Commission as saying that the votes, one in Perak state for a seat in the national parliament and the other for the state assembly in Kedah, would be held on April 7.

Analysts have also said the polls would be seen as a referendum on the Barisan Nasional coalition which wrested control of Perak after the opposition alliance was hit by four defections.

"It will be an opportunity for the people to make a judgement. It will definitely be a referendum on Najib's leadership as he was the architect in the illegal power grab," Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the Democratic Action Party, told AFP.

"Najib should be rallying the people at the time of a global economic crisis. His action has created divisons among the people. It will be a vote on Najib's leadership," he added.

Najib, who is also the finance minister, is expected to become prime minister after the March end annual gathering of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which leads the Barisan Nasional.

The Barisan Nasional suffered two morale-sapping parliamentary by-election defeats after polls last March.

It will be looking to prove it can claw back public support, but Lim urged voters to send a message to Najib that such a power grab "is completely unacceptable."

The ruling coalition's takeover of Perak was given the thumbs-down by voters, according to a poll released Thursday ahead of the two by-elections.

In the general elections last March, the opposition seized control of an unprecedented five of Malaysia's 13 states.

The elections are also a chance for the opposition alliance to re-assert itself after the loss of Perak, which triggered calls for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to quit.

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