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Malaysia's ruling coalition heads for easy by-election win as opposition boycotts

Malaysia's ruling coalition heads for easy by-election win as opposition boycotts

Plantation laborers, shopkeepers and housewives cast ballots Sunday in a rural state by-election that Malaysia's ruling coalition is expected to easily win following a boycott by opposition parties.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front faces a lone challenger _ Ng Chee Pang, 22, a little-known independent with scarcely any political experience _ for the legislative seat of Batu Talam in eastern Pahang state.
Opposition groups fielded no candidates in order to protest what they claimed were discrepancies in the voter roll, and concerns the vote might not be transparent. Government authorities have rejected the accusations and called the boycott a publicity stunt.
Coalition officials appeared more concerned that many of Batu Talam's 10,525 eligible voters might not bother to show up because the National Front's candidate, Abdul Aziz Mat Kiram, seemed poised to achieve a landslide victory.
"Go out to vote regardless of rain, storms or floods," Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said in a message carried by local media. "Voters must come out to vote to prove the opposition is no longer relevant in Malaysia's democratic system."
Prominent coalition leaders have flocked in recent weeks to campaign and make pledges of boosting economic and social development in Batu Talam, a constituency of palm oil workers, rubber tappers and small business traders.
The National Front has controlled the Batu Talam seat _ as well as the majority of seats in Pahang's state legislature _ since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.
The by-election follows the death last month of the incumbent, who beat a candidate from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the country's largest opposition group, by a 2,761-vote majority in 2004 general elections.
Opposition parties have made claims of electoral fraud in previous polls, but this was the first time in recent years that they staged a boycott. Government officials have always insisted that Malaysia's voting process is fair.


Updated : 2021-03-03 05:09 GMT+08:00