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March 6, 2009

Malaysia Politics:
Opposition accuses election body of bias

Malaysia's senior opposition leader Wednesday said a decision to hold three separate votes on one day showed the country's election commission was biased in favour of the government.

"If more proof is needed about the lack of independence on the part of the election body, this is one. There is no earthly reason for coinciding three by-elections," opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang told AFP.

Lim said the opposition, which lacks funds and other resources, would be overstretched if it had to campaign for a constituency in Sarawak state along with polls in northern Perak and Kedah state, all slated to be held on April 7.

"Three by-elections on the same day makes it difficult for the opposition to campaign effectively. But it is convenient for the ruling Barisan Nasional which has the money, media and government machinery," he said.

Two of the elections were called after the death of the incumbents. The third seat became available after the resignation of an assemblyman who was accused of bigamy.

Analysts say the polls are seen as a referendum on the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which wrested control of Perak in February after the opposition alliance was hit by four defections.

The BN suffered two morale-sapping parliamentary by-election defeats following last year's general elections, where the opposition seized control of five of Malaysia's 13 states and a third of parliamentary seats.

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's replacement.

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