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Malaysia’s Mahathir fears corruption in general elections

Malaysian former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday lashed the government as “weak” and said he feared that vote-buying would be deployed to stem its losses in upcoming general elections.

Mahathir, who stepped down in 2003 after two decades in power, echoed analysts’ views that the increasingly unpopular government is headed for losses at the polls expected to be held in March.

He also criticised its decision to jail ethnic Indian protesters, saying the minority community had no way of airing its grievances, and that a wave of public protests was inspired by the government’s repeated errors.

In an interview with foreign newswires to mark the launch of a book on his correspondence with world leaders, Mahathir said the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) would still lead the Barisan Nasional coalition.

“Even if (UMNO) lose 20, 30 of their candidates, the Barisan Nasional is going to win”, Mahathir said, but added that voters would be sending a message with what is expected to be a reduced majority. “It will give a much truer picture of the support that the government gets, but I fear corruption of the voters,” he said. “I hope that this kind of money politics — I know a lot of people are collecting a lot of money now — if they use money politics the result may not reflect the true feeling of the people.”

Mahathir was critical of his successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s jailing of five ethnic Indian activists under a draconian internal security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday, AFP

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