Malaysian electoral activists to back down if asked to by king
Jul 4, 2011, 9:33 GMT
Kuala Lumpur - Activists campaigning for electoral reform in Malaysia on Monday pledged to cancel a planned demonstration if personally asked to by the country's constitutional monarch.
Political tensions have been rising over the past two weeks since the government banned the movement and arrested more than 100 activists including opposition lawmakers in an effort to stop the protest planned for July 9.
On Sunday, King Mizan Zainal Abidin issued a rare political statement calling for calm from all parties, and urged both sides to meet and try to reach a settlement.
'I urge that amid the political fervour of a section of the people to bolster democracy in our country, it must also be ensured that this demand on democracy does not bring destruction to the country,' he said.
Activist Ambiga Sreenevasan said Monday organizers would seek an audience with the king before deciding whether or not to cancel the rally.
Rights groups called the official crackdown as a 'low point for human rights.'
'These actions can be read as creating a situation of political tension and reducing public confidence in the way the federal government is addressing the situation,' the Kuala Lumpur-based Association for the Promotion of Human Rights said.
Organizers are calling for an overhaul of electoral laws ahead of general elections, which are due in 2013 but many observers believe will be called by the end of this year.
Campaigners are demanding more transparent procedures for ballot counting, equal access to media for all political parties and other changes to the electoral system which they say puts the opposition at an unfair disadvantage.