08/31/2015, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Street protests against prime minister, accused of corruption. Najib refuses to resign

An estimated 300 thousand people according to organizers, 25 thousand according to police. Protest led by former premier Mahathir, demands Najib’s ouster. Marking national holiday Najib invokes goal of unity.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The Malaysian Prime Minister has strongly rejected calls for his resignation from protesters over the weekend during massive street demonstrations and, on the occasion of national holiday, invoked the goal of unity.

Today the government wanted to give a show of force, attending events organized for the celebration of "Hari Merdeka", celebrating the independence of the Federation from British colonialists in 1957. Festivities were led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is mired a corruption scandal to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

He is accused of graft and financial mismanagement at state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), created by the premier in 2009 when he came to power, and a deposit of several million dollars into his personal account.

According to a survey published in July by the Wall Street Journal about 700 million dollars were deposited in a private account linked to the Prime Minister. According to the anti-graft agency these are "donations" from the Middle East, of uncertain origin which the chief executive needs to clarify.

This brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of the capital this weekend, calling loudly for his resignation. According to police data there were about 25 thousand citizens; sources close to the opposition say that at least 300 thousand protesters attended.

Speaking at Independence celebrations, Prime Minister Najib said that the protests organized on the weekend "is not the right way to make one voice heard in a democratic country." He further added that the rest of the nation, or those who have not participated in the demonstrations, are in favor of the government and its actions.

Protests were led by former Prime Minister - and former ally of the current chief executive - Mahathir Mohamed, who attended the demonstration yesterday in Kuala Lumpur. He led the country from 1981 to 2003 and is a prominent personality in the political and institutional context. He said that Najib is unfit for the role of premier and should be "removed" with a "show of force" by the population.

In fact, even in the face of conflicting numbers there is a certain fact concerning the events of the weekend: the protest leaders have so far failed to win the support of the members of Malay ethnicity, the majority in the country, reflecting the fact that the scandal has so far not affected the electoral base of the premier. The leader of the pro-democracy group Bersih in fact reports that the march was dominated by members of ethnic Chinese minority who, in recent years, have turned away from the ruling party.

The coalition led by Prime Minister, the Barisan Nasional, has ruled Malaysia since independence 58 years ago. However, overall support has fallen sharply during the last elections and  inner critics have frequently accused the bloc of arrogance.

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