Huge turnout at rallies

Tens of thousands flock to events to hear candidates make final pitch for votes

 
Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Kelana Jaya parliamentary candidate Wong Chen speaking to Pakatan Rakyat supporters who turned up at a massive rally at Kelana Jaya stadium in Selangor last night. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

In the final precious hours of the campaign season last night, massive political rallies were held across the nation in last-minute attempts to drum up support.

Tens of thousands of Malaysians flocked to stadiums and carparks for the rallies, dubbed the "mother of all ceramahs" by some.

In Johor, a crucial state where the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) hopes to make inroads, opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang - his voice hoarse after two weeks of campaigning - and other candidates made impassioned pleas for support in Gelang Patah.

The few thousand mostly Chinese voters who came with their families, including young children, stood in a soggy field in Skudai waving opposition flags, blowing horns and cheering.

Their numbers swelled through the evening and the mood was celebratory as the energetic crowd yelled their desire for "ubah" - "change" in Malay - as candidates spoke out against corruption and inequality.

Mr Duncan Ng, 30, a sales manager from Johor Baru, spoke for many when he said: "After tomorrow, we will have a new government, we are so confident of that.

"But even if it doesn't happen, we will still live on with the hope that whoever is in power will take better care of us. We will accept the result because we are civilised people who live in a democratic country."

Meanwhile, on the streets of central Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of motorcyclists rode through the city late last night waving Barisan Nasional (BN) flags and cheering.

At Prime Minister Najib Razak's constituency in Pekan, Pahang, he spoke to a gathering of young voters.

"The younger generation in Malaysia is not angry with the government, they will prove this by backing the BN (in today's polls) as they know only the BN can guarantee their future," he said.

In Sarawak, the DAP's permit application for a rally in Kuching was turned down by the local city council. But incumbent Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen went ahead anyway.

Thousands turned up, transforming an open-air carpark into a sea of red - the party's colour. Among the crowd were Sarawakians who work abroad and have returned to vote. Cheers rang out from the crowd when the emcee asked if any had come from Singapore, Melbourne and elsewhere.

Mr Chong told the crowd this was their opportunity to eradicate the corruption that has plagued the government for years.

Supporters in Penang were in high spirits last night. Cars and motorbikes, adorned with party flags, were cruising around the island.

Thousands more gathered in an open field in Seberang Jaya for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's final rally in his Malay-majority parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh.

At Kelana Jaya stadium in Selangor, tens of thousands of Pakatan Rakyat supporters showed up with signs, flags and vuvuzela horns.

Event manager Abby Farina, 32, came with her husband and three-year-old son. "I just wanted to see what the sentiment is like," she said. "It's my first time at a rally and I wanted to soak in the atmosphere."

twong@sph.com.sg

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Background story

The Straits Times will bring you up-to-the-minute reports and analyses of Malaysia’s 13th General Election from journalists in the ST newsroom and our team of correspondents in the field:

  • Carolyn Hong, Anita Gabriel, Yong Yen Nie, Joyce Lim and Tessa Wong in Kuala Lumpur
  • Lester Kong in Sabah
  • Teo Cheng Wee in Penang
  • Reme Ahmad in Kedah
  • Salim Osman in Kelantan
  • Leonard Lim in Sarawak
  • Zakir Hussain and Tracy Quek in Johor
  • Tham Yuen-C in Terengganu
  • Tan Hui Yee in Perak
  • photographers Kevin Lim, Neo Xiaobin and Caroline Chi