Thursday, March 6, 2008

Islamic party supporters fast to seek God's help in Malaysian elections

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's opposition Islamic party urged supporters to fast Thursday, ahead of this weekend's general elections, hoping for divine intervention in a contest against the powerful ruling coalition.

Supporters of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, planned to abstain from eating until sunset Thursday, and were conducting special prayers ahead of Saturday's polls, said a senior party official, Hatta Ramli.

"Especially (in) an election like this when you face strong opposition, the best thing is to ask for God's help," he said in a telephone interview. "While trying our level best, we are also encouraged to devote ourselves through prayers and fasting."

The party, known for advocating strict Muslim doctrines, holds only six out of 222 parliamentary seats since the 2004 elections. It hopes to gain more ground this time amid dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government over rising prices, crime and ethnic and religious tensions.

Together with the two other main opposition parties, PAS said it is aiming to deny the National Front its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

But the National Front, which has ruled Malaysia since independence 51 years ago, still draws most voters with promises of stability despite growing qualms.

The Front's main victory would be to wrest northeastern Kelantan state from PAS. The state is the only one that is currently ruled by an opposition party _ albeit with a narrow majority margin.

Some 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Muslims.
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