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Malaysian prime minister silent over whether by-election win will prompt early polls

Malaysian prime minister silent over whether by-election win will prompt early polls

Malaysia's leader Monday declared his ruling coalition was prepared to face general elections, but refused to say whether its weekend victory in a by-election would prompt him to call polls soon.
The National Front coalition "is always ready to face general elections. The only question is when," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters.
The coalition is dominated by Abdullah's United Malays National Organization party, representing Malaysia's majority Malays.
The other main components are the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress, whose candidate won the by-election for National Front in Saturday's by-election in Ijok, a semi-rural constituency north of Kuala Lumpur, by a comfortable margin.
Abdullah said that the UMNO will now concentrate on recruiting new members and strengthening the party, adding that it should not rest on its laurels following the Ijok victory, where the National Front trounced the candidate of opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim's Justice Party.
"After Ijok, it is not the time to rest," Abdullah said. He said based on Ijok and several other by-election results, the Malay majority is showing "a trend of continuous support" for the government.
The election in Ijok had been seen as a test of support for both sides ahead of national polls, which are not due till 2009 but expected to be called by late this year or early 2008.
Asked to comment on reports that the ethnic Chinese voters in Ijok had shown substantial support for the opposition, Abdullah said the MCA would talk to them and find out what grievances they might have.
The Justice Party said the strong police and government presence in Ijok created an atmosphere of fear while the 82 percent voter turnout, among the highest in a by-election, was suspicious and indicative of vote fraud.
"There were voters who arrived only to find their votes used by unknown persons. There are those who had passed away and yet their votes were cast. We have evidence of residents promised money by National Front after they voted for them," it said in a statement.
"This is not a defeat for our party. This is an insult to our democratic system."