Sunday August 29, 2004

Malaysia government wins key vote

Abdullah faces a key party conference next month
Malaysia's moderate coalition has retained a state assembly seat in a by-election, dashing hopes by Islamic conservatives for a political comeback.
The National Front's majority in the northeastern state of Terengganu rose to 2,059 votes - up from 1,645 in the general election five months ago.
The poll was seen as a test of popularity for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who triumphed in March.
The result also reflects growing splits within the Islamic Party, experts say.
Many members of the Islamic Party (Pas) seem to be losing patience with the elderly religious scholars who lead it, the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur reports.
Pas had been Mr Badawi's strongest challenger in the March elections.
Some 700 policemen were on high alert in the poll in Terengganu's Kuala Berang constituency on Saturday to replace the governing coalition's seat-holder, who died in June.
Pas members had hoped to revive the party's flagging fortunes
No violence was reported, although past electoral face-offs have been tense in Malaysia.
The coalition's convincing victory confirmed the government's hold on 27 out of 32 seats in the state assembly.
The moderate multi-ethnic National Front now controls more than 90% of Malaysia's 219-seat parliament.
The by-election victory also means that Mr Badawi will be able to face his first party's next month conference as leader knowing that his main opponents are firmly on the defensive, our correspondent says.
At the Pas party's 50th annual assembly - currently meeting in the town of Kota Baru - speaker after speaker denounced the leadership's lack of direction and strategy, our correspondent says.
Some accused past president Abdul Hadi Awang of blaming the party's poor general election performance on everyone else, while taking no responsibility himself.
He has said there will be no change in policies.
Pas has banned concerts and imposed a strict dress code on women in the only state it still controls.
However, most analysts believe the party misread a surge in its popularity five years ago as an endorsement of its conservative agenda, rather than as a protest against the government, our correspondent says.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"