More than 25,000 protestors rallied for electoral reforms in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
In possibly the biggest rally in the past decade, pro-democracy protesters called Bersih (clean) were seen storming the Independence Square in the heart of the capital. The massive protest is seen as a delicate test for the ruling coalition.
The group spearheading the protests is demanding the resignation of senior election commission officials to prevent what they see as fraudulent elections. They say that the voters list has been bolstered with fake voters in order to favour the ruling dispensation.
More than 2,000 armed police officials have been deployed in the place. The police are closing down the square with barriers and barbed wires, after a court ordered the protestors not to enter the site on Friday.
Tear gas and chemical-laced water were reportedly used against the protestors while some of them tried to enter the prohibited square.
The activists allege that the election commission is largely biased towards the ruling coalition of Najib Razak which has been in power for more than five decades.
"Now it looks like we will have to fight for our right to gather at Merdeka Square as well as fight for free and fair elections," Reuters quoted a protestor Muhammed Hafiz as saying.
The opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said: "Yes, the plan by the opposition party leaders is to move to the square. The opposition alliance is committed to this," reported AFP.
The government, while admitting that there are certain issues, feels the situation has been blown out of proportion. "We accept that there are certain issues. We have worked very hard to address them, introducing a raft of reforms to ensure that our country's next election is the freest and fairest ever," AFP quoted the country's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman as saying.
A mass rally which saw more than 10,000 protestors in July 2011 was crushed by the police and 1,600 people were arrested.
Pictures from the protests.