INDEPENDENT NEWS

Dr Mahathir Reelected, But Not Without Cheating

Published: Wed 1 Dec 1999 02:50 PM
Opposition Election Poster - BIG VERSION
By Chris Holm
Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and his ruling National Front coalition were voted back in with more than a two-thirds majority today, amid opposition claims that the government's campaign was unfair, dishonest and at times illegal.
By 8am today the Barisan Nasional (National Front) Coalition had taken three quarters of the 193 elected seats in the Malaysian Parliament, more than it's majority of 1995, heralding a fifth consecutive term for Malaysia's Prime minister Dr Mahathir.
The result came at the end of a tough two-week campaign after a surprise snap election was called by Prime minister Mahathir in the middle of last month. The government dominated the campaign, while the opposition who accused it of corruption, economic mismanagement and money-politics were generally excluded by the government controlled mass media.
Malaysia's first election after the Asian economic crisis and the controversial jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the vote showed Dr. Mahathir still has significant popular support after 18-years in power. The election was also the first time Mahathir's ruling coalition fought a united opposition - the Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front), a coalition of Malaysia's four main opposition parties
Speaking to the Malaysian press after vote counting had revealed the two-thirds majority, Prime minister Mahathir claimed the vote showed his party was still "…the party of choice of the people of Malaysia" (see http://thestar.com.my/).
However the opposition coalition called the results a farce and said the combination of scare tactics, censorship, and lack of coverage in the government controlled media meant the National Front's win was inevitable.
Last week opposition newspaper Malaysiakini reported that the major daily newspapers had refused to run advertisments by the Opposition Coalition, finally agreeing to a week before the election.
However, when the advertisements were submitted they were heavily censored. One containing a picture of beaten opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim with a black eye after he had been beaten in custody was banned outright. (For more information see "A Dirty Little War" on < a href="http://freemalaysia.com/"> http://freemalaysia.com/).
Meanwhile the government has spent substantial sums on a sophisticated campaign targeted at both Muslim Malays and Non-muslims warning of racial violence if the opposition were elected.
Last week the AFP wire carried a story that suggested the National Front had spent over RM500million of public money (NZ $250 million dollars) on it's election campaign, and opposition leader Lim Kit Siang urged the police to probe the funding of this media advertising blitz.
The opposition coalition is made up of Islamic traditionalists PAS, the predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party, and Malaysian People's Party, the multiracial National Justice Party headed by Dr Wan Azizah wife of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Former Deputy Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in Febuary last year on charges of corruption and sodomy, after resigning from the National Front government coalition and threatening to set up his own opposition party.
He has since been convicted of corruption and is yet to go to trial on charges of corruption. He is still in confinement.
- Chris Holm is a Freelance Journalist and Scoop contributing reporter. He is contactable at chrisholmemail@hotmail.com

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