Malaysia elections set for May 5

Updated 11 April 2013
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Malaysia elections set for May 5

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia yesterday announced a general election for May 5, setting a long-awaited date for polls.
Speaking a week after Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved Parliament, Election Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Yusof said the two-week official campaign period would begin on April 20.
Election fever has already gripped the country with posters, banners and party flags lining many roads.
The United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has ruled Malaysia through coalition governments since independence in 1957, faces a formidable opposition that promises to end corruption, favorism and authoritarian rule.
Under UMNO the country became a regional economic success story, while enjoying relative harmony between the majority ethnic Malays and its sizeable ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities.
Najib hopes to extend the government’s unbeaten run in the polls by focusing on his steady economic stewardship and offering the public a series of cash handouts and other sweeteners.
“This election is a choice between sticking with a competent, reform-minded government and risking our prosperity on a fractious, inexperienced opposition,” a spokesman for Najib told AFP.
But the opposition has won support with pledges of clean, transparent governance and respect for civil liberties.
The UMNO-controlled Barisan Nasional coalition had romped to victory in every election until 2008, when it won the polls but lost its two-thirds majority.
It now faces the fight of its life against the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact) opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim.
In the 1990s the charismatic Anwar was handpicked by the then-authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad as his heir in UMNO.
But Anwar was ousted from government in 1998 and jailed in a power struggle between the two men that left Malaysian politics deeply polarized.
“For Pakatan Rakyat it is the best possible chance to offer a viable alternative, for democracy and a more responsible government. I think the chances of winning are very good,” Anwar told AFP.
Najib is seeking his first mandate from voters after taking the helm of the ruling coalition in 2009, following his predecessor’s resignation over the poll setback the year before.
He has launched reforms to strengthen the economy, which grew 5.6 percent last year despite the global malaise, and improve civil liberties.
Barisan holds 135 of Parliament’s 222 seats and nine of Malaysia’s 13 states, while the opposition has 75 seats and four states.
Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-chairman of electoral reform group Bersih, said the upcoming election “will be one of the dirtiest we have seen for a long time.”
“It will be very competitive, and that is why it will be one of the dirtiest elections,” she told AFP.


India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

Updated 18 min 13 sec ago

India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

  • India’s coast guard seized $42 million worth of ketamine

NEW DELHI: India’s coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized $42 million worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.
The 1,160-kilogram drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the defense ministry said in a statement.
The boat’s crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding “57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance” on Friday.
“Preliminary analysis ... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel,” the ministry added.
The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.
They claimed they left Myanmar on September 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat “operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line” on Saturday, the statement said.
The Nicobar Islands are located near Southeast Asia, off Myanmar’s coast.
Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone, the world’s second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.
Large amounts drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.