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25k rally in Malaysia, police fire tear gas

Police unleashed tear gas and chemical-laced water on Saturday at thousands of demonstrators who staged one of Malaysia's largest street rallies in years, demanding fair rules for national elections expected soon.

world Updated: Apr 28, 2012 22:41 IST

Police unleashed tear gas and chemical-laced water on Saturday at thousands of demonstrators who staged one of Malaysia's largest street rallies in years, demanding fair rules for national elections expected soon.

At least 25,000 demonstrators swamped Malaysia's largest city, hoping to pressure Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition - which has held power for nearly 55 years - to overhaul electoral policies before polls that could be held in June.

Authorities insist the elections will be free and fair, rejecting activists' claims that the Election Commission is biased.

Demonstrators wearing yellow T-shirts, waving banners and chanting slogans poured into downtown Kuala Lumpur, massing near a public square that police had sealed off with barbed wire and barricades.

"I'm here because I'm a Malaysian and I love my country," said information technology manager Burrd Lim. "There's no election that's perfect, but I want one that's fair."

Authorities had refused to allow an opposition-backed pressure group that organised the rally to use Independence Square, a nationally renowned venue that hosts parades and patriotic celebrations.

The demonstration remained peaceful for several hours. When a small group appeared to suddenly breach the barriers, authorities began firing tear gas.