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Date: 25 Nov 1999
Opposition party leader says he could "lose big" in poll over Islamic fears
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (AFP) - A Malaysian opposition leader said Thursday his party would probably "lose big" in next Monday's election after a multi-faith council decided to back the ruling coalition out of fear of an Islamic opposition ally.
Lim Kit Siang said the Malaysian Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism had decided to back the National Front because the opposition Alternative Front (Barisan Alternatif) includes the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), whose ultimate aim is an Islamic state.
"The pledge by the (council) to support the Barisan Nasional (National Front) in the general election is a major blow to DAP and Barisan Alternatif," Lim, the head of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), told a press conference.
"It would probably be the single biggest cause for the DAP to lose big instead of to win big -- resulting in the DAP suffering an even worse defeat than the 1995 general election."
The Alternative Front comprises the DAP, the National Justice Party led by the wife of jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, PAS and the small Malaysian People's Party.
The religious council's president A. Vaithilingam, in a statement quoted by the official Bernama news agency, did not directly confirm it would back the ruling coalition.
But Vaithilingam said statements on planned Islamic "hudud" laws by some PAS leaders "are creating fear and doubts not only among the Hindus but also among the other non-Muslims in Malaysia."
Vaithilingan was quoted as saying that past political alliances had been merely alliances of convenience in seat allocations.
"But now it (Alternative Front) is a political front in a plan to rule the country.
"This is a dangerous trend when the senior partner (PAS) of the front has not given up the Islamic state issue in its own separate agenda of the party."
Lim predicted that the religious council's stance would cost him his own seat and result in the "decimation" of his party's seats in parliament.
He said the council seemed to have fallen for "propaganda" from the ruling coalition that a vote for the DAP was a vote for PAS and for an Islamic state.
Lim has already acknowledged risks for his Chinese-dominated party in joining the opposition coalition.
"We come together on common grounds of justice, freedom, democracy. We are able to work on what is contained in our joint manifesto," he said Thursday.
The manifesto makes no mention of an Islamic state.
Lim said establishing an Islamic state would need a two-thirds majority or 128 out 193 parliamentary seats to amend the constitution. But PAS was only contesting 58 seats.
"They (PAS) have their ideological objective, we have our ideological objective," he said.
The issue in Monday's election, he said, was not an Islamic state but ending the National Front's two-thirds majority "to allow democracy, justice and opportunity to take root in Malaysia."