Thousands of anti-government protesters on Saturday gathered in the Malaysian capital calling for reforms ahead of elections expected to be held in the first half of the year.

Mat Sabu, a leader of the main Muslim opposition party PAS, said he expected the crowd to swell at the Merdeka Football Stadium in central Kuala Lumpur.

“We will reach our target of 1 million by the time our rally start at 2pm (0600 GMT),” he told a crowd estimated at 10,000.

Civil society groups calling for electoral reforms, improvement of the education system and human rights were joining the protest.

City police chief Mohmad Salleh said the authorities would help facilitate the rally to ensure the safety of the participants.

“We are committed to make this rally trouble-free,” he said.

In April, more than 1,000 people were injured and hundreds were detained after police dispersed crowds demanding electoral reforms.

More In: International | News