A number of candidates for Malaysia's 14th general election claimed that their phones are being spammed with robocalls on polling day (May 9), prompting Prime Minister Najib Razak to order "immediate action" to be taken.
The strategic communications director for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), Abdul Rahman Dahlan, tweeted a video, saying the mobile phones of BN's leaders have been under "technical attack since morning".
"Calls from overseas keep coming in every few seconds! To prevent us from communicating with our machinery. This is dirty trick! (sic)" he said.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein who is contesting the Sembrong parliamentary seat tweeted: “Just finished voting and realised all these missed calls from unknown numbers. Strange.”
Najib condemned the "spam call" tactics being used against "many" BN leaders, saying it has made it difficult for them to use their phones.
He also said many BN websites are inaccessible.
Opposition candidates such as Mukhriz Mahathir made similar claims that their phones were being inundated by robocalls.
Lim Guan Eng, the secretary-general for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), said that he and his party leaders have been receiving many calls from unknown numbers.
He too claimed that the "cyber warfare" was an attempt at preventing party members from communicating with each other.
"This is a dirty tech attack on us, we have been paralysed. We cannot talk to anyone ... they are trying to sabotage the electoral system to deny a PH (Pakatan Harapan) win," Reuters quoted him as saying.
"The telcos must do something. We can complain to the authorities, but what can they do now?" Lim said.
DAP press officers said their leaders received the calls from 8am to 9am and that there was another wave at around 10.40am.
Azmin Ali, the chief minister of the opposition-held state of Selangor, said the continuous calls prompted him to leave his mobile phone in his car as he went to cast his ballot. "They are desperate, so they are using all sorts of tactics to jam us. But at the end of the day, it's people's power," Reuters quoted him as saying.
ROBOCALLS THE WORK OF "BOT ATTACK": AUTHORITIES
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said it received numerous complaints about the robocalls, where the phones ring and then the calls drop. "This is being experienced repeatedly by all parties," it said.
It added that an initial investigation points to a bot attack that was initiated anonymously from various sources with differing targets "irrespective of the political parties".
MCMC said investigations are ongoing, but stern action would be taken against the people behind the robocalls. "We seek that everyone stop this act immediately and refrain from further use of such technical attacks as it could jeopardise the telecommunication network causing inconvenience to the public and a security risk," it stated.
The Malaysian police will work with MCMC in investigations, said a statement by the police chief.
It added that spam calls targeting election candidates were the work of an "irresponsible party" and were done to disrupt the election process.