Malaysia's Anwar won 61 percent of vote: party exit polls
Agence France-Presse - 8/26/2008 7:55 AM GMT
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party said Tuesday its exit polls indicate he has won 61 percent of the votes in a by-election expected to return him to parliament.
"From our exit poll figures and what we are tracking, Anwar is safely leading in the polls and... I think that it is right to say about 61 percent," said Sivarasa Rasiah, vice president of the Keadilan party.
Sivarasa said that Anwar's opponent from the Barisan Nasional coalition, Arif Shah Omar Shah, had garnered about 39 percent of the vote.
"We are still not declaring victory as we will wait for the official election results from the Election Commission," he told AFP.
Polling booths opened at 8:00 am (0000 GMT) and are due to close at 5:00 pm. Official results are expected to be released by 10:00 pm.
Anwar has been widely tipped to win the vote in Permatang Pauh, an electorate in his home state of Penang which he held until he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.
But political pundits said they will focus on the size of the winning margin, compared to that attained by Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who held the seat during his political exile.
"We are expecting Anwar's win to be the same as big as when Wan Azizah contested but we think that it will be less in terms of absolute numbers due to it being a working day for many," Sivarasa said.
Wan Azizah won about 64 percent of votes cast in March general elections. The groundswell of support allowed the opposition to take control of five states and a third of parliamentary seats.
Turnout in March was 81 percent, but Keadilan information chief Tian Chua said only 60 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot by mid-afternoon Tuesday, and that numbers from ethnic minorities were low.
"Chinese and Indian voters are not coming out as much as we had expected. This could be due to intimidation," he told AFP. "We are trying to round them up to come out and vote."
The opposition has accused the government of stoking tensions between Muslim Malays and the nation's ethnic minorities to try to undermine Anwar, by painting him as a "Chinese agent" who has sold out Malay interests.