Grandmother, 89, seeks power via internet

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The Independent Online

Once, the internet was seen as the preserve of teenage geeks with too much time on their hands. Then came the "silver surfers", a generation of retirees keen to get to grips with the technological revolution. Now, a bicycling 89-year-old Malaysian woman is proving that the worldwide web can be a springboard to power.

Elections in the south-east Asian country have been brought to life by Maimun Yusef, who is swiftly becoming the latest internet phenomenon in her unlikely bid to overcome the two thirds majority of the country's controversial ruling coalition.

Maimun is by some margin the oldest candidate standing in Saturday's national election. And she's almost certainly the oldest electoral candidate in the world. But, with a blog that boasts of nearly 8,000 hits since Wednesday alone, and a Facebook page, the grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of 19 is refusing to bow out of the race.

She is standing in the 83,000-strong constituency of Kuala Terengganu, capital of the oil-rich Terengganu state in the country's north-east, in what was being called a "three-cornered" race when Maimun surprised locals by registering as a candidate on 24 February.

Yesterday, the Malaysian Barisan National coalition government expressed hope that it would retain its majority despite a recent backlash from Indian and Chinese minorities in the country. The Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said he was even confident of securing Penang, Malaysia's only Chinese-majority state. But anti-government feeling, of which Maimun has suddenly become a colourful symbol, remains strong. "This is very tiring," the underdog admitted to the Reuters news agency. "I have been going non-stop since nomination day but a lot of people are helping me out."

A Muslim Malay, like many opposition candidates, Maimun – who, ironically, is herself technologically illiterate – is relying on her message being conveyed by a meagre 24 voluntary supporters, who have set up a blog – www.maimunbintiyusuf.blogspot.com – for Maimun.

"Alhamdulillah (Thank God), I am happy," she said. "I hope it can serve as an example to younger people. They just sit and complain and since no one I knew was willing to fight, I decided that I had to do it."

Maimun, who has spent most of her savings on the campaign – some 20,000 ringgit (£3,150) – summed up her message to voters: "I am upset when I see a lot of youths turning to drugs and there are not enough schools. If chosen, I will make it all better."

But Maimun and her fellow oppositionists face an uphill struggle. The last time the ruling coalition failed to win a two thirds majority, in 1969, there were riots and a state of emergency was declared until 1971.

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