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Boikot Batu Talam : Apa kata agensi berita antarabangsa

Islamic party says to boycott Malaysia by-election

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's opposition Islamic party PAS forfeited a rare chance on Thursday to take on the ruling coalition in a by-election in a Malay heartland, citing unfair election rules, party officials said.

Analysts said Parti Islam se-Malaysia's decision to shun the Jan. 28 polls in the central state of Pahang was based on avoiding an embarrassing defeat despite growing nationwide discontent with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's three-year rule.

"It's a bit of a gamble for PAS," said Terence Chong, a fellow at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies. "If it loses very badly, morale will be affected."

Officials at PAS, which rules one of Malaysia's 14 states and whose official platform is to turn the country into an Islamic state, declined to say whether the pullout was prompted by the risk of losing.

"It's more to do with the Election Commission, which handles the polls," party treasurer Hatta Ramli told Reuters.

PAS said it had found discrepancies in the voters' list for the Batu Talam constituency in Pahang, a state where the party traditionally has little support.

The opposition has often complained that the election panel favoured the ruling coalition and election laws were dated and ineffective in checking fraud.

General elections are not due until 2009 but opposition figures and analysts said the prime minister might call snap polls in late 2007 or early 2008.

Abdullah, battling unprecedented criticism from his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, is also losing popularity over some tough measures including allowing prices of petrol, road tolls, electricity and other essentials to rise.

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