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Malaysia protesters demand electoral reforms

[JURIST] Malaysian police Saturday fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators participating in an unauthorised election reform rally held by the electoral rights group Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) [advocacy website] in the face of official warnings. BERSIH said 23 people were arrested. Marchers managed to reach the National Palace of Malaysia [JURIST news archive], where they delivered a memorandum calling for, among other things, "the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting" and "fair and equitable access to the national media." BERSIH called the "flawed electoral process - which virtually guarantees the perpetual rule of the governing Barisan Nasional" the "core cause of the exploding political, administrative and judicial rot in Malaysia, with far-reaching implications on the economy and society at large." The group said 40,000 to 50,000 people attended the rally, but claimed the number would have been higher if not for police interference, which included roadblocks, checking cars for BERSIH-related shirts and other material, turning back buses, and preventing commuter trains from stopping at stations closest to the venue.

At a United Malays National Organisation political party conference earlier in the week, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi [official website; BBC News profile] had warned activists of a stern response if the rally planned for Saturday went ahead, pointing out that no permit had been issued. In September, a group of Malaysian lawyers made a similar march, delivering a memorandum protesting judicial corruption [JURIST report]. BBC News has more. Channel NewsAsia has additional coverage.

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