Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reuters Reports: BERSIH 3.0 clashes could delay national polls

Supporters of Bersih (Clean) reform group display banners at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur April 27, 2012. REUTERS-Samsul Said
(Reuters) - Malaysian police fired tear gas and water cannon in clashes with thousands of protesters demanding electoral reforms on Saturday, raising the risk of a political backlash that could delay national polls which had been expected as early as June.

Riot police reacted after some protesters among the crowd of at least 25,000 tried to break through barriers, in defiance of a court order banning them from entering the city's historic Merdeka (Independence) Square. They fired dozens of tear gas rounds and chased protesters through nearby streets.

Protesters also
battled with police at a train station nearby, throwing bottles and chairs at officers who responded by firing tear gas rounds. A police car was over turned by angry protesters after it hit demonstrators. Most of the protesters had dispersed by early evening but sporadic clashes with police continued.

"They (the police) asked the crowd to disperse but did not give enough warning," said Aminah Bakri, 27, with tears streaming down her face from the gas.

"They do not care."

The police reaction could carry risks for Prime Minister Najib Razak if it is seen as too harsh, possibly forcing him to delay elections that must be called by next March but which many observers had expected for June. Najib's approval rating tumbled after July last year when police were accused of a heavy handed response to the last major electoral reform rally by the Bersih (Clean) group. It has since rebounded to nearly 70 percent.

Some media sites put the number of protesters as high as 100,000, which would make it by far the biggest since "Reformasi" (Reform) demonstrations in 1998 against then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Police stand guard behind a sign left by protesters on the barbed wire fence perimeter around Dataran Merdeka, also known as Independence Square, in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012. REUTERS-Tim Chong
Al Jazeera reports: Click here

Protesters march down a street during a rally in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012. REUTERS-Bazuki Muhammad
Police pin down a protester as they chase down demonstrators who broke a police cordon near the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012. REUTERS-Tim Chong
The police federal reserve unit (FRU) fire tear gas towards a group of protesters on a street near Dataran Merdeka, also known as Independence Square, in Kuala Lumpur April 28, 2012. REUTERS-Tim Chong
News and photos credit: Reuters