Dozens detained as Malay parliament opens

2013-06-24 13:01

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian police on Monday detained at least two dozen people protesting alleged election fraud as parliament convened for the first time since divisive polls last month.

About 300 people, clad mostly in the black colour of a post-election protest campaign, demonstrated on a road leading to parliament in the capital Kuala Lumpur, calling for a re-balloting.

Police, backed up by a dozen riot officers armed with shields, batons and tear gas, moved in after several hours, dragging away protesters and bundling them into police trucks.

Khalid Samad, an opposition lawmaker, said at least 25 people were arrested. A police spokesperson, when contacted, could not immediately confirm the number.

Lawmakers from both the ruling coalition and three-party opposition were sworn in on Monday, marking the start of a fresh five-year term following 5 May elections won by Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (National Front).

The 56-year ruling coalition won the polls but with a reduced majority. It also lost the popular vote, gaining just 47%, but retained power due to a favourable landscape of seat apportionment.

Ink fiasco

The opposition has alleged that widespread fraud cost them a historic election victory, but has grudgingly accepted the result.

They claim widespread irregularities in the electoral roll, and have highlighted a debacle over supposedly indelible ink that was introduced to prevent multiple-voting but washed off easily.

Najib has denied any fraud took place, but the ink fiasco has not been explained.

The opposition also says gerrymandering and redistricting over the years make it difficult to dislodge Barisan, and are pushing for deep election reforms.

The opposition has staged a series of demonstrations around the country to highlight such grievances, but the movement appears to be ebbing.

Barisan developed Malaysia into a regional economic success but analysts have warned the country's competitive edge is slipping compared to regional rivals.