Malaysia: Mahathir joins protest against electoral map changes before election
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Malaysia: Mahathir joins protest against electoral map changes before election

MALAYSIAN former prime minister and current opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined hundreds of protesters on Wednesday to rally against the tabling of changes to the country’s electoral boundaries ahead of polls that are expected to be called within weeks.

Supporters of the electoral reform group Bersih gathered outside parliament in Kuala Lumpur to hand over a memorandum of protest to Prime Minister Najib Razak over the proposed re-delineation of Selangor state. Activists and opposition leaders say the proposal violates the federal constitution and amounts to gerrymandering due to unrepresentative numbers in constituencies.

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“This country is now a kleptocracy country. They will oppress the people in whatever way possible. Don’t be scared if you are threatened,” Mahathir told the 800-strong crowd, who showed up despite police orders not to protest.

According to The Malaysian Insight, rally goers said Najib is trying to “steal the 14th general election,” adding that the gerrymandering was too obvious.

Dr Mahathir also accused the prime minister of bribing law enforcement and silencing critics with the introduction of the controversial Anti-Fake News Bill.

“He can buy out the cops, the army, the AG (Attorney General) and the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission),” he said. “I am confident those who are forced to follow Najib will also reject him when the election comes. The money received from Najib is haram. It cannot be halal.”

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Najib has been embroiled in the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. The national development fund is currently at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the DOJ.

Najib previously served as chairman of its advisory board. He was found with RM2.6 billion (approx. US$700 million) in his personal account. He claims the money was a gift from the Saudi Arabian royal family and maintains there was no wrongdoing.

Other opposition leaders attended the rally on Wednesday, including opposition MP Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang, and MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.