Tuesday, May 7, 2013

GE13 Historic polls marred by fraud claims

'Thai-Malaysians paid to travel to vote'

NARATHIWAT - Thai-Malaysians are reportedly being offered up to 5,000 baht for "travel expenses" to vote in today's tight election race in Malaysia which has already been tainted by corruption allegations levelled by the opposition.
The dual nationality holders in the three southern provinces were being offered 400 to 500 Malaysian ringgit (4,000 to 5,000 baht) to cover the cost of the trip, a source from the Thai-Malaysian coordinating committee which jointly oversees border affairs said.
Malaysian monitoring group, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, warned yesterday that ''tens of thousands of alleged voters are being flown and bused to key battleground states and constituencies'' by the the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim battled down to the last moment Saturday for votes in a Malaysia election that is too close to call. (Reuters photos)
Adnan Mansor, secretary-general of the ruling Barisan, conceded that its allies had organised chartered flights to transport voters to their home states, but denied that they were phantom voters.
''The flights in question were organised and paid for by Friends of Barisan Nasional,'' he said. ''They brought registered voters to their home so that they may vote in the upcoming elections.''
He said the opposition had also chartered buses to bring voters from Singapore.
Election Commission chief Abdul Aziz Yusof said it is not an offence to pay for travel expenses of voters as long as the sponsor does not instruct the voters to support specific parties or candidates.
''We will assist in making sure that there are no phantom voters,'' deputy national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said. ''If Election Commission officers inform us that unregistered voters are trying to come in, we will take action.''
Malaysia's Election Commission requires its nationals living in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia, to return home to vote. The commission says they are not entitled to a postal vote.
The majority of Malaysians living in Thailand are based in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, Songkhla and Satun provinces.
Today's elections are the first in the country's 56 years of independence in which the only government Malaysia has known faces possible defeat.
Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said only fraud can stop his Malaysian opposition coalition from scoring a historic election win as the rival sides launched a last-ditch campaign blitz on the eve of today's tense vote.
The uncertainty has given rise to a bitter campaign, with Prime Minister Najib Razak warning of chaos and ethnic strife under the opposition, which has countered with allegations of government poll fraud.
Mr Anwar set the stage for a possibly destabilising challenge to the results, accusing Barisan of cheating to thwart what he called a ''democratic revolution''.
''We have advised our supporters to remain calm, not to be provoked, not to take the law into their own hands, support the process,'' Mr Anwar said, adding: ''unless there's a major, massive fraud tomorrow, we will win.''
Both Mr Anwar and Mr Najib yesterday barnstormed through their home regions where they will vote early today.
Mr Najib, who took over from his predecessor in 2009 following Barisan's worst election showing ever the previous year, has appealed to voters for a ''strong mandate'' so he can implement reforms.
''This is the first time, as the prime minister, that I am seeking a mandate from the people. I want to carry on with the trust,'' he told supporters in his home state of Pahang Saturday. ''The task of transformation is not over yet''.
Upping the ante, Mr Anwar yesterday released a 100-day roadmap for Pakatan governance, pledging to look into major corruption allegations, free up the media and lower petrol prices.
His transparency promises are anathema to Barisan, which has long been accused of sweeping corruption under the rug. Under pressure, Mr Najib recently announced limited political liberalisation moves but critics say he has not undertaken deep reforms.
The charismatic Mr Anwar has drawn massive crowds on the stump, including on Friday night when tens of thousands of supporters swamped opposition-held Penang's capital, George Town.
A survey released Friday by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, indicated the ruling coalition would win 85 parliamentary seats, the opposition 89 with the remaining 46 up for grabs.
Meanwhile, Thai plainclothes security officers have been deployed to watch for suspected criminals who may try to exploit traffic at the border to flee Thailand.
Authorities on both sides are also watching for insurgents opposed to the peace talks between Thailand and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, in light of escalating violence against civilians in the South.