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Date: 01 Dec 1999
Phantom voters rear ugly head in Malaysian polls, watchdog group says
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 (AFP) - A foreign poll watchdog group said Tuesday it found traces of fraud such as phantom voters in Malaysian general election and could not conclude it was "free and fair."
But the Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Elections said the irregularities did not mean that the overall result of Monday's poll, which saw a major victory for the ruling National Front, was invalid.
The group deployed observers at polling stations in eight of the 13 states.
"What we can infer is, there was a systematic attempt to organise the voter registration in a way it would favour the victory of certain parties," said Sunai Phasuk, a member of the election watchdog.
He told AFP after a press conference that he was referring to the ruling National Front coalition.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's National Front won 148 of the 193 parliamentary seats contested and retained power in nine states. It failed to wrest control of Kelantan from the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and lost Terengganu to PAS.
Sunai said migrants from the Philippines were given identity cards on condition they voted for the National Front. He distributed photocopies of temporary identity cards bearing the same picture but different names and numbers.
"I got the details from the Filipino migrants. I spoke to them," he said. Sunai visited three polling centres in Sabah state on Borneo island, which is close to the southern Philippines.
Sunai, a research fellow in Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said watchdogs also received reports of the use of fake identity cards in other states.
Observers from the network came from Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Nepal and the Philippines.
Thailand's General Saiyud Kerdphol, who headed the team, said in a statement: "Temporary identity cards and fake identity cards have been issued and distributed during the past six months to foreign immigrants allegedly on condition that they must vote for the ruling party."
Saiyud said that although the elections were conducted relatively peacefully, "it is difficult to conclude that the electoral process and the polling are free and fair due to the discrepancies in the handling of the voter registration."
He said not all political parties were able to bring their message to the public and media covrage was often biased, unbalanced and at times misleading.
"There was evidence of multiple registration of voters in many areas throughout the country," Saiyud added.
Sunai said that at one voting centre in Sabah, "voters" were ferried to the centre in buses decorated with National Front banners.
Carrying seven to eight people at a time, these buses were going in and out of the polling centre even though private vehicles were not allowed near voting centres, he said.
Sunai charged that there were flaws in the electoral process and the Election Commission failed to take action, but he said it was premature to conclude that the entire election was faulty. "I do not think we can condemn the entire election process.
"The credibility of the handling of postal votes raises many questions," he added.
Saiyud said Malaysia should strive for meaningful democratic elections and a more representative political system in the future.