“We all want change today,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, one of the demonstration’s leaders.
The rally’s organizers have also sought longer election campaigning periods and changes to ensure citizens living abroad can cast ballots, as well as international observers for the polls and fairer access for all political parties to the government-linked media.
But despite the large turnout for Saturday’s demonstration, there was no indication that Prime Minister Najib’s National Front coalition would agree to major changes to satisfy the activists.
“If (elections) are not clean, not fair, show the evidence,” Najib was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama, on Saturday. “We do not want to be elected through cheating. We are a government chosen by the people. The majority of the people chose us because they know (we) are better” than the opposition.
After about 20,000 demonstrators staged a similar rally that was also dispersed by tear gas last July, authorities established a panel to study electoral regulations and agreed for voters to have their fingers stained with indelible ink while casting ballots to curb multiple voting.
But activists say those decisions fall short of what’s needed. Hundreds of Malaysians living abroad and rights activists in cities such as Hong Kong, Auckland and Perth also staged demonstrations Saturday in solidarity with those in Kuala Lumpur.
Speculation has intensified that Najib might dissolve Parliament next month and seek a new mandate in June, even though polls do not need to be held until mid-2013.
The National Front, which has governed Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, suffered its worst performance in 2008 elections, when it lost more than a third of Parliament’s seats amid public complaints about corruption and racial discrimination.
By Rand Paul
Obama acts as though we no longer have a Constitution
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
A twenty-something’s musings on religion and today.
In a world that is increasingly complex, we need to seek greater awareness of the blending of cultures and America's changing role in a global community.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc