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Malaysians to shun Saturday's polls

world Updated: Mar 06, 2008 12:12 IST
Malaysians to shun polls after 50 years of coalition rule

Millions of Malaysians are expected to not bother voting in Saturday's elections, in a wave of apathy that observers credit to boredom and a feeling of alienation from the ruling coalition.

After a half-century in power, no one is under any illusion that their vote could dislodge the mighty Barisan Nasional coalition, despite voter gripes over rising inflation, ethnic tensions and high crime rates.

"We should have a right to make a choice. I'm not voting because to me, there seems to be no choice," said Akmal Hakim, 29, a waiter at a fast food outlet and one of the young Muslim Malays who are the majority of non-voters.

Former deputy premier Musa Hitam estimated that some five million people would not exercise their right to vote, in a trend he said threatened "the very fabric of the democratic process".

"Some are not happy with the government, yet don't feel they should come out and vote against the government. Some say they are simply fed up with politics. They are saying, 'We'll get nothing out of it'," he said in a newspaper interview.

"And some are saying, 'Well, whether we vote or not, they (the coalition) are going to win for sure'."

Newspapers are awash with flattering stories on the government, and television and radio broadcasts are continuously interrupted with expensively produced commercials.

"There is only one choice, vote for BN," declare the posters and bunting which festoon the cities and villages of multicultural Malaysia, which is home to majority Malays as well as minority ethnic Chinese and Indians.