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Fear of cheating pervades Malaysian election

PM Najib Razak faces a tight race to cling on to power as voters complain of long waits at polling stations

Fear of cheating pervades Malaysian election

Voters wait to get into the polling station in Sabah, Borneo, on May 9. Some people waited three hours to cast their ballots. (Photo by Jefferi Chang)

ucanews.com reporter, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia

May 9, 2018

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The mood was a mix of eagerness and jitters as millions of Malaysians began casting their ballots at polling stations across the country in the nation's 14th general election.

For many, it was another attempt to oust the coalition Barisan Nasional (National Front) government under Prime Minister Najib Razak they voted out five years ago only to be stymied by gerrymandering.

The odds are stacked more against them this time after more dirty tricks, and the balance of power may be held by the hard-line Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

Voter turnout was reported at 61 percent at 2pm on May 9. Polling stations were due to close at 5pm.

The latest opinion polls indicated a tight race between the ruling coalition and opposition pact Pakatan Harapan led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, now aged 92.

Cases of alleged cheating, predicted by the opposition and non-partisan election observers, started to pop up on social media. Three police reports were lodged over alleged electoral fraud.

While voting at some polling stations in the more affluent areas was smooth, voters in areas known to be opposition strongholds complained they were forced to wait out in parking spaces under the hot tropical sun for more than an hour before they were allowed in.

"They are doing this to make people fed up and go home," said Chong Pit Fah, an opposition candidate in Sabah, Borneo.

He said he arrived at the polling station at 8am but only managed to cast his ballot three hours later.

"This has never happened before," said Alice, who was with her friend Monica at the polling station. "It was ridiculous — so disorganized."

Chang, a Christian youth who works as a cab driver, said he feared PAS could turn out to be kingmakers if the vote between Barisan Nasional and the opposition was close.

"It will not be so easy to overturn Barisan Nasional's advantage. The gerrymandering, the openly biased Election Commission, police interfering with the opposition campaign ... you know ... taking down their flags and banners," he said.

"The good thing is that many [passengers] I picked up recently from the airport said they had come back to Sabah just to vote. It is good they made the effort."

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