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By-Elections Waste Of Funds

Malaysia’s leader has said the ruling coalition may sit out an upcoming by-election sparked by the resignation of an opposition lawmaker, decrying it as a political ploy and a waste of public funds.

Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted by the Sunday Star as saying that he would meet leaders of his National Front coalition at the end of the month to decide whether to contest the by-election in northern Penang state.

A lawmaker from former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition alliance quit his state assembly seat recently following unsubstantiated allegations of corruption. A date for the ballot to fill the seat will be decided soon.

It will be the sixth by-election since the March 2008 national polls. The National Front is expected to come under pressure after the opposition won four of the previous five by-elections.

“We are not afraid of losing to them, but it is a sheer waste of public funds. Whatever decision we are to make, we will take into consideration whether it benefits the people,” Najib said in the report, slamming the resignation as a “clearly a political ploy.”

An aide to Najib confirmed his comments but did not give details.

Najib has said earlier that by-elections should only be held after an elected representative died, not resigned, as such polls were draining resources that should have been used to strengthen the economy.

Two of the five previous polls were called to fill vacancies caused by resignations of opposition lawmakers, while the rest were due to death of the incumbents.

The newspaper said the five by-elections have cost taxpayers 33.4 million ringgit ($9.3 million), the bulk of which was spent on deploying thousands of police to the area to ensure security.

The National Front governs with less than a two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in 40 years.

In the last by-elections, the opposition won two of three polls held simultaneously on April 7, dealing a blow to Najib shortly after he took power with pledges to carry out wide-ranging government and social reforms.

The results did not change the balance of power at the federal or state level but served as a referendum on Najib’s popularity. The National Front downplayed the loss, saying Najib has yet to make his mark.

Opposition leader Anwar welcomed Najib’s suggestion to sit out the Penang by-election, saying it would save effort and resources.

Source : AFP

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