Sunday, March 9, 2008


PM accepts state defeats; urges people to stay calm

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who pollsters said was being punished in this general election over high inflation, rising crime ates and ethnic tensions in the multicultural nation, reportedly accepted he defeat in several areas of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled Malaysia for half a century. “He said that this is how democracy works, and urged people to remain calm and not to celebrate in the streets,” The Star newspaper reported him as saying on its website. The coalition’s performance looked to be the worst since 1969, when it last lost its two-thirds majority in parliament in a result that triggered serious racial clashes. Opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed in 1998. said Barisan Nasional would once again lose the two-thirds majority that allows it to amend the constitution at will. “We have crossed the one-third majority. This is based on information from the candidates from the initial counting,” he told AFP. “This is a major victory.., and we are moving up very fast towards 40 percent.” The opposition held just 20 seats in the outgoing 219-seat parliament. In the island state of Penang, the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) said it had ousted the coalition in a stunning upset and would form a government with Anwar’s Keadilan.DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said voters had “created history by allowing opposition parties to form the Penang state government.” In the northern state of Kedah, the Islamic hardliners PAS claimed a completely unanticipated victory, and indicated it would also rule in an opposition coalition in central Selangor state. In the major battleground of Kelantan, the only state the coalition does not hold and which it had hoped to snatch from PAS which has ruled there for 18 years, the Islamic party said it would extend its majority. Pollsters also said that northwestern Perak state was leaning towards the opposition. “There is a massive swing against the Barisan Nasional among the ethnic Indian and Chinese electorates,” said Merdeka Centre research firm pollster Ibrahim Suffian. “And also a significant swing of about 15 percent, I estimate, from among the Malay electorate as compared to the 2004 elections,” he told AFP. “Judging by the extent to which the unofficial reports are coming through, there is a slim chance that the BN’s two-thirds majority might be breached.” Anwar is barred from holding office until April, but had criss-crossed the country campaigning for the general elections, rallying Keadilan as well as DAP and PAS which have formed a loose alliance. Seven hours after voting closed, the Election Commission had announced results for nearly half the seats, with 77 going to the coalition, six to PAS, seven to Keadilan and seven to DAP. The Merdeka Centre’s pollster Ibrahim said the results put Abdullah’s future in jeopardy as the head of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the coalition. “I think he will have a tough time ahead as he goes into UMNO party elections which are in the middle of the year. There will be some tough questions asked there,” he said.