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US gives conditioned welcome to Malaysian elections

Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 01:54:12


US gives conditioned welcome to Malaysian elections

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (AFP) - The US State Department on Tuesday congratulated Malaysia on the results of its national elections, but pointed out the process was hardly free and fair.

"We would like to congratulate Malaysia on the outcome of its national and state elections," said State Department spokesman James Rubin.

But, he added, "We do have concerns that one of the country's most prominent figures, Anwar Ibrahim, is in jail, having been convicted in a questionable proceeding."

"We also note that willing party figures enjoyed generally acknowledged advances, including the election's timing and unequal access to the media," he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday celebrated his emphatic poll victory that secured his legacy as Asia's longest-serving elected leader but also saw big gains by an Islamic opposition.

The Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and not the secular opposition parties proved the biggest winner from the issue of ex-deputy premier Anwar, whose sacking and treatment last year divided the sympathies of ethnic Malays.

"It's likely to use that increased voice to contribute ideas to the dialogue with respect to the conduct of the election," Rubin commented.

"We would also like to extend our sincere congratulations to Doctor Wan Azizah and all other candidates who won in the November 29 elections."

The National Justice Party (Keadilan), formed by Anwar's wife Wan Azizah just before he was jailed for six years in April, won five seats.

Wan Azizah hailed the opposition's achievement but blamed "scare tactics" by pro-government media and the exclusion of 680,000 new voters from the electoral roll for the failure to make a breakthrough.

The Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Election, which deployed observers at polling stations in eight Malaysian states, said it found traces of fraud and could not conclude the election was "free and fair."

"But nevertheless there was an election," Rubin said.

"It was largely a democratic election with the obviously important caveats that I mentioned, and we look forward to working with the Malaysian government," he concluded.

Last changed: December 01, 1999