89-year-old grandmother contests in Malaysia election

An 89-year-old grandmother contesting next month's general elections has become the talk of the nation with her bid to challenge Malaysia's ruling coalition despite having little money and no political experience.

89-year-old grandmother contests in Malaysia election
Maimun Yusuf, a rural clothing saleswoman who is running as an independent candidate for a parliamentary seat in the northeastern state of Terengganu, said Thursday she was "fighting for the country's sake ... to improve conditions for poor people."

"I'm old. I'm not contesting for myself," Maimun told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I have no need to become famous. I want to help create better education and better opportunities for people so that they can have a better life."

Maimun has become a celebrity since Sunday when she filed her candidacy papers for the March 8 ballot, with newspapers regularly publishing photographs of her riding a red bicycle to meet voters or pasting campaign posters in her village.

Reporters and photographers were hounding Maimun on the campaign trail, and Internet forums have been buzzing with messages of support for the headscarf-wearing Muslim widow who has seven grandchildren and no formal education.

But the odds are stacked against her. Maimun is competing for the votes of about 80,000 people in the Kuala Terengganu constituency with a popular incumbent from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front coalition and a top official in the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

Maimun's rivals are buoyed by the political and financial muscle of their parties, while she lives alone in a rented wooden house and has never made a public speech.

She used her own money to pay the 10,000 ringgit (US$3,120; �2,080) fee for submitting candidacy documents and is spending more to print posters. But her expenses are only a fraction of what her rivals are expected to spend.

"I know that some people think I'm senile," Maimun said while taking a break from campaigning to share a lunch of rice and fried fish with a friend.

"Some people came to my house and advised me to pull out because of my age," she said. "But I told them that I will stay to the end. I know I am old and not wealthy, but I won't pull out."

The National Front's Razali Ismail voiced confidence this week about retaining his seat, saying there seemed to be "a strong sense of the feel-good factor" among voters who are satisfied with how the government has served them.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Şubat 2008, 17:28