Elections very near, says Malaysian poll body chief


Kuala Lumpur : Elections in Malaysia, where the term of the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government is scheduled to last till the summer of next year, “are near”, the country’s Election Commission chairman has said.

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“I’m dead serious about it,” Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman has said in an exclusive interview to The Star newspaper.

The political leadership, however, has refrained from commenting upon media speculation suggesting the polls could take place this year, possibly in March.

The ruling Barisan Nasional was elected to office mid-2004 for a five-year term.

Rahman said he was “not joking” about it when he spoke about early elections late last month, the newspaper said Sunday.

The general election fever “just got hotter”, said the newspaper Sunday, pointing out that leave for all police officers and personnel has been frozen indefinitely.

However, Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan, who issued a circular to that effect this week, told The Star that the main reason for the freeze was “to conduct dry runs for the next general election”.

“We have several reasons for doing so; the main reason being that we need to have dry runs. There are many things that we need to do when the elections are called. We must be prepared.”

The Election Commission is also getting down to serious work. Abdul Rashid said he was not trying to show that he had the “power” when he said the elections would be held soon.

“I purposely said that to remind everyone – voters and political parties alike – to be ready as the elections will be held soon.

“I just want to be fair to all. Democracy works when participation by political parties is vibrant on the ground. We would like very much to encourage as many parties to participate in the elections as possible, hence the ‘warning’ so that everybody can be prepared,” he said.

Pressed for a more specific date, Abdul Rashid, who would be taking charge of the running of his seventh election, said: “When I say the election is round the corner, you better believe me because it is not a joke. It is definitely not a joke. You don’t joke about these things.”