Thursday, November 8, 2007

Malaysian opposition rallies for change - Asia Times Online

By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR - A mammoth opposition rally planned for next week threatens to expose examples of vote-buying, gerrymandering, fraudulent electoral rolls and blatant use of public resources to win votes in Malaysian elections, unless the government is able to stop it.

Organized by BERSIH, a coalition of four main opposition political parties and 67 civil rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the rally is the first concerted effort to change the election rules ahead of the country's 12th general election, widely expected to be held by March.

The government is dead set on stopping the rally, which could be the biggest since Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi came to power in 2003. The premier rode a wave of popular adulation that has since soured by his failure to fight corruption and promote the rule of law.

The police have issued a warning, citing a pre-colonial era law that bars gatherings of more than five people that the rally is banned and anybody who turns up at independence square in the capital risks being arrested.

"Despite the concerted threats we expect over 10,000 people to turn up," said Sivarasah Rasiah, a key organizer and vice president of the opposition National Peoples Party. "The threats are not going to force us to back down," he said. "It is our democratic right to gather peacefully to show our unhappiness with the tainted system."

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