Malaysia PM sworn in amid protests

2013-05-06 12:08
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak takes his oath of office at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. (Malaysian Information Departmen, Wazari Wazir/ AP)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak takes his oath of office at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. (Malaysian Information Departmen, Wazari Wazir/ AP)

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Kuala Lumpur - Prime Minister Najib Razak was sworn in for a second term by Malaysia's king on Monday, after his 56-year-old ruling coalition retained power in elections branded as fraudulent by the opposition.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim called for a rally in two days' time to protest at a victory which he said was achieved via the "worst electoral fraud in our history".

The coalition that has ruled since independence in 1957 held off a spirited opposition challenge to retain a firm parliamentary majority in elections widely forecast to be the biggest-ever threat to the ruling bloc.

But the opposition bitterly alleges major fraud by Najib's Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition and bias by the Election Commission.

"I call upon as many Malaysians to join hands and express our rejection and disgust at the unprecedented electoral fraud committed by Najib Razak and the EC," Anwar said in a statement.

The rally was to be held on Wednesday in a stadium on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Supporters bitter, despondent

"The government has lost its legitimacy," Anwar, aged 65, said earlier in an interview, calling the conduct of the polls a "crime" against Malaysians.

Supporters of the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) opposition alliance were left bitter and despondent after an election which they hoped would result in a historic change of government but which left Pakatan with only modest gains.

Najib, aged 59, who had promised free and fair polls and has since brushed off numerous allegations of irregularities, was sworn in at the ornate national palace in Kuala Lumpur.

Shortly after his victory, he acknowledged the election - which indicated that ethnic Chinese had continued a trend of deserting Barisan - had laid bare deep racial divisions.

"Overall, the results show a trend of polarisation which worries the government. If it is not addressed it can create tension or division in the country," he said, promising to pursue reconciliation.

Anwar said the opposition would look into fraud allegations in dozens of constituencies and decide "whether [to file] election petitions or to go to the courts".

'Foreign' voters

Azizuddin Sani, a political analyst from Universiti Utara Malaysia, said it would be "very difficult" to challenge the result.

"Anwar can complain, but I don't think it will change the results," he said.

Pakatan has made major inroads in recent years under Anwar - a former Barisan star who was ousted and jailed by the regime in a 1998 power struggle - by capitalising on public fatigue with corruption and authoritarianism.

Outraged voters took to the internet in droves to complain that indelible ink which Najib touted as a guarantee against multiple voting was found to easily wash off.

Videos, pictures and first-hand accounts of angry citizens confronting purportedly foreign "voters" at polling centres also went viral online.

Anwar has alleged there was a scheme to fly tens of thousands of "dubious" and possibly foreign voters to sway the outcome in key constituencies.

End of career

The vote saw a record turnout of more than 10 million people.

Najib, who took office in 2009, has faced rising public calls for reform. He has responded with some limited liberalisation moves which his critics dismiss as cosmetic steps that dodge deep change to avoid upsetting a ruling elite.

Barisan's clear majority was secured with just 48% of the votes cast, according to tallies by independent online media, which reform advocates said proved the electoral system was skewed in its favour.

Sunday's outcome raised the spectre of an end to the remarkable career of the charismatic Anwar. He has vowed to step aside as opposition leader if Pakatan fails to unseat the government.

Read more on:    anwar ibrahim  |  najib razak  |  malaysia

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