Malaysia election violence spikes

2013-04-24 08:03
A Malaysia riot policemanstands guard with a smoke grenade rifle on his back outside the nomination centre where Prime Minister Najib Razak was to hand over election documents. (Roslan Rahman, AFP)

A Malaysia riot policemanstands guard with a smoke grenade rifle on his back outside the nomination centre where Prime Minister Najib Razak was to hand over election documents. (Roslan Rahman, AFP)

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Kuala Lumpur - Hundreds of cases of Malaysian election violence have been reported since campaigning for tightly contested 5 May polls got under way at the weekend, police were quoted saying on Wednesday.

A total of 387 incidents were reported in the first three days of the two-week campaign, which kicked off on Saturday, and at least 15 people have been arrested over the violence, national police spokesperson Ramli Yoosuf told The Star newspaper.

"They were in possession of weapons such as machetes and suspected of slashing rival party supporters and criminal intimidation, mostly while putting up flags and banners," Ramli said.

He added that hundreds more incidents had been reported earlier, between the April 13 dissolution of parliament and the official start to campaigning.

The pro-government newspaper gave no indication of who was perpetrating the violence, but the opposition has complained that their supporters were the victims in most attacks. AFP has been unable to confirm this.

Malaysia is bracing for long-anticipated elections that have raised speculation of the country's first change of regime since independence from Britain in 1957.

The vote pits a coalition, dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), that has ruled Malaysia with a tight grip for 56 years against an upstart opposition promising a more liberalised society.

The independent group Bersih, which advocates for clean elections, had previously warned that political violence and intimidation could potentially sway the expected close vote.

Ramli said the cases included individuals who attempted to run down rival political supporters in cars, adding that one election operations centre in a northern state was set on fire, but giving no other details.

No deaths have yet been reported, but Malaysian media last week reported a man was left in a coma after a beating by ruling party supporters in the north of the country. The man was later reported to have regained consciousness.

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