Saturday March 6, 2004

Malaysia's opposition parties
protest 7-day campaigning

By Channel NewsAsia's Malaysia Correspondent
Melissa Goh

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysians will go to the polls two weeks from now.
The Election Commission has fixed March 21 as polling day, while nomination for candidates will take place on March 13.
But the opposition camp is protesting against the seven-day campaigning period, the shortest in Malaysian history.
March 21 has been fixed as the day for Malaysia's 11th general election.
Although it coincides with race day of the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Election Commission insists it is not going to affect voter turn-out, estimated at around 10.3 million people.
Polling will also fall on the last day of the school break, where many schools will be used as polling stations.
But the seven days allocated for campaigning, the minimum period required under election laws, has angered the opposition.
Dr Syed Husin Ali, President of Malaysian People's Party, said: "The opposition is given one week to campaign, they have been campaigning, not only that, they have disqualified opposition candidates."
Three key leaders of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim's linked People Justice Party were disqualified for contesting for previous criminal convictions..
Under the Federal Constitution, candidates who have been sentenced to more than two years' jail or a fine of RM2,000 are barred.
The Opposition Alternative front has grouped the conservative islamic party PAS, the People Justice Party and the Malaysian People's Party.
The Democratic Action Party is not part of it, after it pulled out of the opposition alliance following disagreement over PAS' Islamic state principle.
Nevertheless, the opposition manifesto is now ready to be distributed next Tuesday.
Opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ibrahim, who has been the torch bearer of the opposition front, said she will be campaigning at Keadilan stronghold in Permatang Pauh next week.
Wan Azizah said: "They sympathise, still remember much of Anwar, they say don't change yet, based on that I will go down to meet them, to thank for their continued support."
With the election just two weeks away, both the government and opposition's campaigning is likely to shift into high gear although officially, campaigning can only begin after nomination day.

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