Tuesday, April 7, 2009

As the voting comes to a close

From: Malaysiakini

Polling at Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai started at 8am this morning. Both Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak) are state seats while Bukit Gantang is a parliamentary seat. Counting began at 5.30pm and results are expected after 10pm. However, counting for some ballot boxes in Batang Ai started at 3pm.

5.25pm Batang Ai More unofficial results from the on-going vote count: Gugu - BN 59, PKR 149, Krang Mong - BN 88, PKR 15. BN is still leading.

5.20pm Batang Ai The high water level in the Lemanak river resulted in a lower voter turnout. Of the 448, only 366 registered voters cast their ballots. According to elections watchdog Mafrel, several boats capsized when ferrying voters.

5pm POLLING ENDS in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai. Counting of votes for the two Bukits is expected to commence at 5.30pm. For Batang Ai, counting started at 3pm.

4.50pm Bukit Selambau The voter turnout was 67 percent as at 4pm.

4.45pm Bukit Selambau The situation in several areas is quite tense with supporters from BN and Pakatan having a go at each other. In certain places, only a heavy police presence is keeping people calm.One focal point is Sungai Lalang where the supporters are trading insults and hurling plastic water bottles at one another.State MIC chief V Saravanan was subjected to intense heckling by the Pakatan supporters when he arrived at Sungai Lalang. The police had to intervene quickly to stop the BN supporters from starting a fight as a result of this.There is a similar situation at Taman Ria, with both sets of supporters insulting each other. The police are keeping a close watch on the BN supporters, largely made up of Puteri Umno members, and the Pakatan crowd.A strong FRU force is present, while a police helicopter is hovering above. Heavy rain has failed to disperse the supporters.

4.35pm Batang Ai BN has taken the lead after ballot boxes from four polling stations - Ng Delok, Dewan Serbaguna Batang Ai, Kerangan Mong and Ulu Engkari - were counted. PKR won in Sempang. BN is leading with 908 votes against PKR’s 356, or a majority of 552. About 20 percent of the votes have been counted so far.

4.30pm Bukit Selambau It is raining heavily.

4.23pm Bukit Selambau According to elections watchdog Mafrel, a commotion erupted at SJK Chung Hua, Sungai Lalang when DAP stalwart Karpal Singh and Kedah MB Azizan Razak passed the area."Unhappy MIC members threw water bottles at their cars. According to observers, passers-by were also hit. It is not clear what caused the commotion."

4.20pm Batang Ai Counting has begun for the ballot boxes from the 14 polling stations in remote areas of Batang Ai. Counting kicked off at 3pm at the main tally centre in Lubok Antu’s sports complex.Based on the early count, BN and PKR are neck-and-neck. BN is leading PKR by 331 to 300. Unofficial results from the following polling stations:
Ulu Engkari - BN 42, PKR 33Bertik - BN 107, PKR 47Sempang - BN 37, PKR 52Delok - BN 86, PKR 21Mengiling - BN 59, PKR 147
Vote counting for polling stations which are due to close at 5pm will begin at 6pm.

4.05pm Bukit Gantang Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, after his making his rounds of polling centres, said he is satisfied with the voter turnout so far."The response is quite positive. I think the sign is quite encouraging," he told Malaysiakini.He blamed PAS supporters for the chaotic situation outside the SMK Pengkalan Aur polling centre in Air Kuning, Changkat Jering where the police had to fire a teargas to disperse the clashing sets of supporters this morning."It is the opposite side that seems to act rowdy by not following the rules set by the Election Commission. They had encroached into the BN territory," he said.It is also learnt that the teargas was fired by the police at the Umno crowd.

4pm One more hour to go before polling closes at Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai.
3.40pm Bukit Selambau The EC says the turnout of voters was 61 percent at 3pm. Kedah EC chief Zainal Abidin Zakaria says he believes a 70 percent turnout or more can be achieved by the time polling ends at 5pm.

3.25pm Bukit Gantang Blogger Anil Netto has put up a video clip on the teargas incident at SMK Pengkalan Aur polling centre in Air Kuning, Changkat Jering.An eyewitness told Malaysiakini that the FRU moved in to disperse the crowd following an altercation between the two sets of supporters. They threw bottles and chairs at one another. The incident happened between 11am and 12.30pm.The teargas affected many elderly people in the crowd. Some appeared shaky after inhaling the gas.

See the video clip here.

3.24pm Batang Ai Ballot boxes from 14 polling stations arrive at the main tally centre in Lubok Antu’s sport complex. These boxes are from remote areas of Batang Ai’s constituency and were flown in by helicopters. These polling stations closed early to enable the bozes to be taken to Lubok Antu town.According to an election officer, counting will begin at 6pm after the plast few stations are closed at 5pm.

3.14pm Bukit Selambau The EC announces that the voter turnout up to 2pm was 55 percent.

3pm Bukit Gantang The situation turned tense for a while at SK Panglima Bukit Gantang polling station when a school bus bearing a Kuala Lumpur registration number stopped in front of the school at 1.15pm. The bus had about 30 women passengers, believed to be phantom voters.As they were about to alight, the passengers were stopped by PAS supporters who asked if they are voters. They did not respond.
A commotion then erupted between supporters of BN and PAS and the bus left the scene with its passengers. The vehicle was later found at the compound of an Umno operations centre.
In the commotion, a PAS supporter was hit by a bottle thrown by a BN supporter, and he fainted.Six trucks of FRU were deployed to restore calm at about 1.30pm. The situation returned to normal at about 2pm.
The police also reprimanded BN supporters for showing obscene signs at their PAS counterparts.
2.40pm Bukit Gantang EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Yusof says the turnout at Bukit Gantang stood at 58.15 percent at 2pm.

2.30pm Bukit Selambau Independent candidate M Vinsen complained of discrepancies in the ballot paper at the Institut Kemahiran Mara polling centre in respect of his name and logo.He said his name has been placed next to someone else's logo, and that his name has been misspelt on the ballot box which will be used during the counting process.
Saying the election officers were not aware of the matter, he lodged a police report in Sungai Petani and promised to take action against the EC.

2.25pm Batang Ai Although polling has ended in many of the remote districts, the counting of ballots will not be done at the respective polling stations as in the past.
According to the EC, for reasons of logistics and weather, the ballot boxes will be transported either by boat or helicopter to the main tallying centre at the sports complex in Lubok Antu. The votes will be counted there. The boxes represent about 45 percent of the ballots cast.PKR had earlier lodged an official protest because it is concerned about the possibility that the boxes could be switched in transit. The opposition also complained about the 'over-bearing presence' of police even in the most remote districts. PKR leaders described this as an act of intimidation. According to initial unofficial exit polls, BN is trailing in a number of polling districts. The main reason is due to the unpopularity of Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu, who heads Salcra, a state government agency involved in projects affecting native customary rights to land. Many are unhappy with the agency.

2.20pm Bukit Selambau Police detained two men aged 37 and 54 at Kampung Bukit Lembu this morning for stopping a bus carrying BN election workers.According to Berita Harian, the election workers were on their way to their respective outposts around the constituency. The police said the two men, driving a Toyota Avanza, overtook the bus and forced it to stop. They then boarded the bus and prevented the driver from continuing the journey.2.15pm Bukit Selambau Elections watchdog Mafrel observers spot two more buses suspected to be ferrying phantom voters. One bus was seen at Taman Ria Jaya and another was heading towards Tasek Apong. The passengers claimed to be BN supporters from Alor Setar. Mafrel said the observers have taken photos of the buses.

2.05pm Bukit Selambau EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar calls on supporters and vote canvassers outside the polling stations to keep their emotions in check in order to avoid any untoward incidents."Things are smooth inside the polling stations but it appears to be unruly outside," he tells reporters.

2pm Batang Ai With voting in some polling districts closed by now, the trend suggests an unexpectedly high voter turnout. In the three fairly sizable polling districts of Sebangki, Mepi and Batu Kaya, the turnout was good in the morning and with two hours to go before closing, it has already exceeded 70 percent. The unusually high voter interest has been attributed to several factors. The by-election is seen as crucial to both PKR and BN in Sarawak as well for issues such as native customary rights to land.

Both BN and PKR leaders have expressed confidence of winning. Political observers feel that this could end up a close fight.

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