05/07/2013, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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For Catholic analyst, Malaysian Spring will follow botched poll

Fr Andrew Lawrence, SJ, editor of the Catholic Herald Malaysia, speaks about election irregularities that cast a shadow on the ruling party's "narrow" victory. Tomorrow, the opposition will hold a demonstration. A battle to "restore truth and freedom" is underway to lift the country out of the "quagmire of dirty politics".

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - "The elections were botched," said Fr Andrew Lawrence SJ, editor of the Catholic Herald Malaysia, about last weekend's vote, which re-elected, albeit by a slim margin, the outgoing coalition government of Prime Minister Najib Razak. However, "There are many cases of illegal voters brought to the polling booths," especially with regard to votes from abroad, which favoured the victory of Barisan Nasional (the National Front or BN).

For the clergyman, "This amounts to an act of treason" against the will of the people "by those responsible of uncivil and illegal acts on 5 May." In fact, the opposition has called for a demonstration tomorrow to denounce the fraud and challenge the election outcome as announced by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

According to the Electoral Commission, the prime minister's party won 133 seats out of 222, its worst result ever, but enough for its 13th consecutive win since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957. The opposition movement won 89 seats, seven more than in the previous legislature. The turnout was 80 per cent, 10 million out 13 million registered voters.

Shortly after the official announcement, thousands of voters changed their avatar on social media to a black stamp as a sign of protest.

Prime Minister Najib Razak was sworn in yesterday for another term, but few are betting that the next five years will be free of obstacles. Even within his own party, some have been disappointed by the narrow victory and would like to see changes in the leadership.

Opposition supporters reiterated allegations of fraud, posting images and banners (pictured) complaining about "voting box[es that] can fall from the sky" or "disappear for a few hours" in a country where "police and anti-riot" units "protect government" bodies, "not the people."

Speaking to AsiaNews about the vote, Fr Lawrence also has doubts about the legitimacy of the outcome. In some cases, he explained, the ruling party was "aided by the so-called postal vote ", which kept afloat incumbents and helped the ruling party retain power.

Nevertheless, for the editor of the Catholic Herald Malaysia, "The Malaysian Spring has truly begun." Tomorrow, a large gathering of people will challenge the results of the election because the "Voice of the people is sacred".

For Fr Lawrence, "Najib will not last long" because "a struggle to establish truth and freedom" has begun.

"We are confident," he said, "that we can, with the support of the people, emerge out this quagmire of dirty politics and be free again."

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