Malaysian PM, in Reversal, Promises Electoral Reforms

Posted August 16th, 2011 at 2:45 am (UTC-5)
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Malaysia's prime minister has promised to set up a bipartisan committee in parliament to consider voting reforms ahead of elections expected next year.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Tuesday the committee will include opposition members and will have the power to do whatever is necessary to make sure the next election is free from suspicion of manipulation.

The announcement marks a major reversal for the government, which has been harshly criticized for resisting demands for electoral reform. Last month, police used tear gas and water cannons to break up a large march held in Kuala Lumpur to press for reforms.

Hundreds of people were arrested during the outlawed march by about 20,000 demonstrators, the country's largest political protest in almost four years.

The marchers, organized by a coalition of opposition parties and rights groups, were demanding such changes as the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting and more equal access to media for all political parties.

Mr. Najib said Tuesday that authorities will also review censorship laws for newspapers and magazines.