MALAYSIA’S ruling party is probing hundreds of claims that candidates jostling for key posts have bribed voters in an electoral campaign that has sparked fears of factional fighting, a senior party official said on Wednesday.
Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, the United Malays National Organisation’s secretary-general, said officials were investigating about 300 complaints of vote-buying, but he stressed that many might be false accusations.
‘We are checking the authenticity of the reports. If there are offences, then the people involved will not be spared,’ Tengku Adnan told The Associated Press.
The complaints underscore suspicions that corruption has burgeoned across the ranks of Umno, which began nationwide caucuses last month ahead of a March ballot to elect top office-bearers.
Party members have accused candidates of paying huge sums and feting voters at lavish feasts in exchange for their endorsements.
Securing top party posts is considered a stepping stone to plum appointments in the Cabinet and government organisations.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other top party officials have voiced concerns that the intense lobbying for posts might spark bitter divisions that would weaken the party after 51 years of uninterrupted rule.
With more than 3 million members, Umno is Malaysia’s dominant political force representing majority ethnic Malay Muslims. It spearheads a governing coalition that is struggling to regain public confidence after demoralising losses in March general elections.
Jostling for key Umno posts intensified after Mr Abdullah recently announced plans to hand power to his deputy, Najib Razak.
Mr Najib is set to take over the ruling party presidency in March, but there are wide-open contests for nearly every other prominent position in the party, which holds most Cabinet posts and virtually all political power. — AP
Corruption has burgeoned across Umno ranks