Feb 21, 2008

ELECTION 2008 : Opposition parties to contest every seat for first time

A well organized opposition party will have better chances this coming General Election?.

(AFP) KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's opposition parties will contest every seat in upcoming general elections for the first time in the nation's history, the party of opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim said Thursday.

The opposition parties are nearing an agreement to field just one candidate in each seat, avoiding the three-cornered fights that have hampered their chances against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in previous polls.

Anwar's Keadilan party is contesting more than 100 seats, while the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) is fielding about 54 and the fundamentalist Islamic party PAS is aiming for around 60.

They hope to substantially increase their presence in parliament where the DAP now has 12 seats, PAS holds six and Keadilan has just one seat.

"In the past there were some seats that BN won uncontested but this time we want to make sure every single seat must be contested," said Keadilan vice-president Azmin Ali.

"This is a major breakthrough among opposition parties," he told AFP.

"We want to come out as a formidable and credible opposition party to take on the national coalition, and we want to give a very strong message to the voters that we are ready to lead."

Parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang from the DAP said the three parties were still wrangling over which would field a candidate in seats in Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island.

"By and large we have agreed, but in Sabah and Sarawak we are still stuck," he said, adding that the pact was critical for the opposition, which is aiming to deprive the government of its two-thirds majority.

"I think it will be very helpful in ensuring as many MPs as we can are elected," he said.

All 222 parliamentary seats, and the legislatures in the states and territories, will be contested at the general elections which pollsters say will erode the government majority.

It garnered 90 per cent of federal seats in 2004 polls, in a landslide for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a year after he took over from veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad.

This time, Abdullah is facing charges he is weak and effective, as well as anger over rising prices of food and fuel, and racial tensions between the majority Muslim Malays who control government and ethnic Chinese and Indians.

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