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Malaysia's ruling coalition scores overwhelming by-election win as opposition boycotts

Malaysia's ruling coalition scores overwhelming by-election win as opposition boycotts

Malaysia's governing coalition clinched a landslide victory in a rural state by-election following a boycott by opposition parties that feared the ballot would be marred by fraud.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front on Sunday trounced a lone challenger _ Ng Chee Pang, 22, a little-known independent with scarcely any political experience _ to retain the legislative seat of Batu Talam in eastern Pahang state.
The National Front's candidate, Abdul Aziz Mat Kiram, secured 89 percent of 7,080 votes cast, beating Ng by a majority of 5,857 votes, the Election Commission said. Ng received 419 votes, while another 385 ballots were spoilt.
"The support for the government has grown stronger," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. "Considering the voter turnout of 67 percent, we can clearly state that the opposition's effort to boycott the by-election was not welcomed by the voters in Batu Talam."
Two key opposition groups refused to field any candidates in order to protest what they claimed were discrepancies in the voter roll, and concerns the vote might not be transparent. Government authorities rejected the accusations and called the boycott a publicity stunt.
The National Front had been more concerned that many of Batu Talam's 10,525 eligible voters might not bother to show up because Abdul Aziz seemed assured of triumph.
Prominent coalition leaders have flocked 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.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, a local watchdog group, on Sunday accused National Front leaders of pressuring people to vote, and claimed election officials have shown "ineffectiveness" in ensuring fair polls.
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 : 2021-04-13 04:24 GMT+08:00