Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Malaysian election violence spikes

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (C) arrives accompanied with his wife Wan Azizah (L) to submit his election nomination in Berapit on April 20, 2013. Malaysian premier Najib Razak and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday kicked off their campaigns for May 5 elections likely to be the country's closest ever. AFP PHOTO

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (C) arrives accompanied with his wife Wan Azizah (L) to submit his election nomination in Berapit on April 20, 2013. Malaysian premier Najib Razak and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday kicked off their campaigns for May 5 elections likely to be the country's closest ever. PHOTO/AFP 

By AFP

KUALA LUMPUR

Hundreds of cases of Malaysian election violence have been reported since campaigning for tightly contested May 5 polls got under way at the weekend, police were quoted saying on Wednesday.

A total of 387 incidents were reported in the first three days of the two-week campaign, which kicked off Saturday, and at least 15 people have been arrested over the violence, national police spokesman Ramli Yoosuf told The Star newspaper.

"They were in possession of weapons of such as machetes and suspected of slashing rival party supporters and criminal intimidation, mostly while putting up flags and banners," Ramli said.

The pro-government newspaper gave no indication of who was perpetrating the violence, but the opposition has complained that their supporters were the victims in most attacks. AFP has been unable to confirm that.

Malaysia is bracing for long-anticipated elections that have raised speculation of the country's first change of regime since independence from Britain in 1957.

The vote pits a coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and that has ruled Malaysia under a tight grip for 56 years against an upstart opposition promising a more liberalised society.

The independent group Bersih, which advocates for clean elections, has warned that the contest could be marred by political violence and intimidation.

Ramli said the cases included individuals who attempted to run down rival political supporters in cars, adding that one election operations centre in a northern state was set on fire, but giving no other details.

No deaths have yet been reported, but Malaysian media last week reported a man was left in a coma after a beating by ruling party supporters in the north of the country. The man was later reported to have regained consciousness.

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