Bomb squad locked in, supporters clash in Permatang Pauh by-election

Rival supporters clash outside SK Tanah Liat polling centre during the Permatang Pauh by-election. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 
Rival supporters clash outside SK Tanah Liat polling centre during the Permatang Pauh by-election. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 

PERMATANG PAUH (The Star/Asia News Network) - A blogger was injured, a police bomb squad was locked in a school, police cars were vandalised and supporters clashed on Thursday during the by-election for a Penang seat vacated by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir Mohammad, a blogger and freelance journalist whose name is similar to that of Malaysia's former prime minister, and a policeman were among those injured as rowdy supporters clashed in SK Tanah Liat, where stones and bottles were thrown.

Mahathir sustained injuries to his head while filming the rowdy group at around 11am Thursday.

He was rushed to the Bukit Mertajam district hospital where he received eight stitches to close the gaping wound.

Policeman Kpl Abdul Wahab Nor, who is from the narcotics unit, had stones thrown at him as he tried to pacify the crowd and sustained injuries on his forehead.

The by-election saw a four-cornered fight between the ruling Barian Nasional's (BN) Suhaimi Sabudin, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, president of the leading opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and wife of jailed opposition Anwar Ibrahim, Azman Shah Othman of Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), and independent Salleh Ishak.

The seat fell vacant after former MP Anwar was sentenced to five years' jail for sodomy and lost his parliamentary seat.

Polling centres closed at 5pm on Thursday. The Election Commission is expected to announce the result of the by-election at 9pm.

Unrest had stirred on the eve of polling day. Penang police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi said three police cars were vandalised at SK Bukit Indera Muda on Wednesday.

Unruly supporters also locked the school gate, trapping a bomb squad who were conducting checks inside the compound.

In Guar Perahu, unruly supporters were seen attacking their rival's machinery, scaring voters in the area. A video of the incident has gone viral on social media.

Police tightened control in SK Tanah Liat, SK Menanti, SMK Mengkuang and Kampung Pertama, which were regarded as hot spots.

Despite massive traffic congestion leading to polling centres, voters continue to swarm in to cast their ballots.

However, observers said a significant percentage of members and supporters of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, the Islamist opposition party which has recently squabbled with PKR over its push for an Islamic penal code, appeared to have boycotted the by-election.

"Not many of them (PAS) went out to vote today," said an observer.