Malaysia’s Opposition Starts Contesting Najib Election Results

Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition alliance said it began filing court petitions against the results of 25 parliamentary seats lost in Malaysia’s May 5 general election, enough to swing the overall vote.

The official results of 10 state assembly seats will also be contested by the June 12 deadline, opposition strategist Rafizi Ramli said in an e-mailed statement. Separate legal action is later planned against the Election Commission’s chairman, his deputy and board members for allegedly failing to properly implement the use of indelible ink to mark voters’ fingers to prevent multiple voting, he said.

“It remains to be seen the nature of the evidence being brought,” Ibrahim Suffian, a political analyst at Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, said in a phone interview. “Judging from past experience, the burden of evidence needed to overturn election results seems to be very high.”

Official results showed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats, its 13th straight election win and narrowest victory since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. Anwar has since held protest rallies in stadiums around the nation with supporters wearing black T-shirts printed with “050513,” representing polling day.

Anwar has repeatedly alleged electoral fraud after his three-party People’s Alliance ended up with 44 fewer seats than Najib’s 13-member Barisan Nasional, also known as the National Front. The opposition won the popular vote with 51 percent support, though gained fewer seats due to the country’s British-style first-past-the-post counting system.

Campaign Spending

The opposition has evidence showing Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi exceeded the election campaign spending limit of 200,000 ringgit ($64,000) when he won the Bagan Datok parliamentary seat in Perak state, Rafizi said. The opposition didn’t specify grounds for disputing the other results challenged. Ahmad Zahid couldn’t be immediately reached for comment via mobile phone.

Monitoring groups including Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, saw an “improvement in the conduct of the election” despite a number of “major issues,” according to their joint preliminary report. These included the use of phantom voters, stained ballot papers, indelible ink that could be washed off and the arrest of seven poll monitors.

The opposition also plans to file petition asking a court to review the electoral roll in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state for alleged phantom voters, Rafizi said.

“The accusations that are being made against the EC about the ink and others are technical issues,” Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, the Election Commission’s vice chairman, said in a phone interview today. “There were no interruptions in the entire election process. We have conducted the election according to the laws of this country and a legitimate government has already been formed.”

In a bid to boost public confidence in the commission, Najib announced plans this month to form an independent bipartisan parliamentary committee to oversee it, comprising both government and opposition members.

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