- Wake-up call in Malaysia
- Rallies replace riots in Malaysia
- 27 BN federal seats in question, says Rafizi
- Anwar vows never to surrender until GE13 results validated
Posted: 13 May 2013 08:58 AM PDT
BN under pressure to dismantle race-based policies as opposition draws more support from all sides, lifting popular vote above 50%.
History was supposed to have been made on May 5, the day Malaysians came out in record numbers to vote for a new government.
Some pundits predicted the country's 13th general election — GE13 in the local shorthand — would be a defining moment that ended the grip on power by the Barisan Nasional (BN). Many were preparing for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to be ushered in as prime minister the next day.
The huge interest in the contest for 222 Parliamentary seats and 505 state seats was reflected in the record turnout — 84.84% or 11.25 million of the 13.2 million registered voters. Of the total, 2.3 million were new voters.
Since independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysians have known no other government than BN, a coalition of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), MCA and Gerakan representing the Chinese, and MIC representing Indians.
The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) comprises the new and predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP), PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) and PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) led by Anwar.
Anwar was quick to declare victory via Twitter early on election night, five hours before the official announcement at midnight by the Election Commission. The results showed the BN returning to power, but not without bleeding more seats at both the federal and state levels compared to 2008. As well, its share of the popular vote fell to 48.7% against 51.3% for the PR.
But in Malaysia, where the government for years has been accused of skewing electoral boundaries to favour candidates in its rural heartland, losing the popular vote is no bar to winning the House.
BN won 133 federal seats, just one less than in 2008, and 274 out of the 505 state seats. PR won 89 parliamentary seats, six more than in 2008. The opposition retained control of Malaysia's two wealthiest states — Penang and Selangor. PAS held on in Kelantan but lost Kedah to BN. Anwar's party also caused hairline cracks in BN's once "fixed deposit" states — Johor and Sabah.
The opposition continues to insist that it was robbed of victory, that the polls were rigged and the process marred by fraud. The poll watchdog Bersih has also refused to recognise the BN government until it verifies reports of electoral fraud.
Reports from southern Thailand, to cite just one example, said that BN was paying 400 to 500 ringgit in "travel expenses" to each voter holding Malaysian nationality to travel south to cast ballots. International observers, however, said the polling process on the whole was fair and transparent.
A group of young voters in Sabah participated in a silent walk on Tuesday to express their disappointment over the results, which they felt did not reflect the nation's desire for a change in government.
Addressing some 60,000 supporters at a rally last Wednesday night, Anwar vowed that PR would challenge the results in at least 30 seats.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was sworn in on Monday, conceded that his party had some work to do to regain voters' trust.
The clear winner among the political parties that contested the election was the DAP, which engineered what Najib ruefully called "the Chinese tsunami" of votes that abandoned the BN. That left the BN's Chinese-based parties including MCA and Gerakan as the biggest losers.
Chinese voters increasingly are expressing their disapproval of decades of race-based development policies that favour ethnic Malays. They claim the policies have not promoted equality but have simply entrenched corruption.
However, BN's weaker showing points to a strong wave of rejection from all Malaysians and not just from the minority Chinese. A major swing in the urban and middle-class electorate shows that Malaysia's urban-rural rift is widening.
Experts analysing the results say there has been a political awakening in the country, which in the longer term will be beneficial. The evolution will continue, with the restlessness of the younger generation wanting to have a say in their future ensuring that the politics of race will sooner rather than later be put out to pasture.
Rather than blaming the Chinese for voting for the opposition, the BN should admit that it has failed to heed the new political reality. MCA and MIC had failed to serve the community they were created to serve and they no longer appeal to the younger voters.
Though Najib has made a lot of changes since he came to power four years ago, he has to do more. His government must continue to dismantle bumiputera policies and also introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to make Malaysia more competitive and lift it out of a middle-income trap.
As well, a total review of the education system can no longer be avoided, a social security system needs to be in place, and exorbitant higher education fees addressed. The rising crime rate is also a serious matter.
Now it is time for reconciliation, as unity is the key in diverse Malaysia. However, equality for all, regardless of gender, race or religion is a critical factor. For unity to work, Malaysians should not longer be judged based on their race.
The government has five years to undo past mistakes and bring change or else the next battle — GE14 — will be won by the party that can present a better united front.
Posted: 13 May 2013 08:57 AM PDT
On May 13, 1969, the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur was a living hell with vehicles, houses and the national consciousness set ablaze. Clashes between ethnic Malays and Chinese claimed 196 lives according to official police estimates. Independent foreign observers estimated the death toll as ten times higher.
Triggered by the outcome of the 1969 elections, that riot paved way for two years of emergency rule and a fundamental change in politics and society. The then ruling Alliance Party – a coalition of three communal parties representing Malays, Chinese and Indians and their regional allies in Sabah and Sarawak – found itself
squeezed by Malay and non-Malay opposition from both flanks.
In terms of popular votes in peninsular Malaysia, the opposition Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) rose from 15% in 1964 to 24% at the 1969 polls, threatening the then ruling United Malays National Organization’s (UMNO) claim as ethnic Malays’ sole political representative. In contrast, the popular support for non-Malay opposition parties was constant at 26%.
Thanks to a first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system and strategic avoidance of multi-cornered electoral fights, non-Malay opposition parties saw their parliamentary seats rise from six in 1964 to 22 in 1969, while PAS increased its share only marginally from 9 to 12. The non-Malay opposition’s electoral gains were at the time conveniently interpreted as an ethnic Chinese challenge to ethnic Malays’ political dominance.
When UMNO’s junior partner Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), which suffered a major setback at the 1969 polls, decided to stay out of the cabinet to respect the popular verdict, this was unfortunately viewed as a Chinese decision to abandon communal power sharing with UMNO. The riot resulted in a transfer of power from Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to his deputy Abdul Razak Hussein, the father of current prime minister Najib Razak.
In the wake of the riot, Abdul Razak implemented a series of pro-Malay policies, most significantly the New Economic Policy (NEP), and co-opted most of the opposition into Barisan Nasional (BN), an expanded version of the previous ruling Alliance. He effectively built an electoral one-party state which remained unassailable until 2008, when opposition parties that later came to form the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition made historic gains at the ballot box.
These historical facts are worth revisiting because history seems to have repeated itself in many ways in the general election held on May 5. Like in 1969, BN lost its majority in popular votes, polling only 47%, despite allegations of widespread irregularities and fraud. Nevertheless, mal-apportionment and gerrymandering of constituencies allowed the ruling coalition to maintain 60% of parliament’s total seats.
Najib’s first response to the poor popular showing was that BN’s electoral setback was due to a “Chinese tsunami”. Altogether, the PR opposition coalition won only 40% of parliament’s seats while notching a bare majority of 51% in popular votes.
Individually, popular support for the PR’s Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) rose from 14% to 16%, while PAS’s vote share also rose from 14% to 15%. The Malay-dominated centrist People’s Justice Party (PKR) won 20% of all votes cast, compared to the 19% it garnered five years ago.
Thanks to the first-past-the-post electoral system, DAP emerged as the largest party with 38 parliamentary seats, while PKR and PAS lost respectively one and two seats at 30 and 21 respectively, despite winning more votes than they did in 2008.
Following Najib’s cue, the UMNO-controlled Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia asked on its front page the next day “What more do the Chinese want?” – painting an unbecoming portrait of a greedy and insatiable minority. The following days saw more provocative headlines on the same theme. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad joined the attacks, accusing the Chinese of “rejecting the Malays’ hand of friendship”. (Ethnic Chinese account for around 25% of the national population, while ethnic Malays account for around 60%.)
On May 12, a retired senior judge and card-carrying UMNO member upped the ante by warning the Chinese of a Malay backlash against their “betrayal”. “When the Malays are betrayed, they will react and their wrath will be endless,” he said. The judge even called for an expansion of NEP-related privileges for ethnic Malays that “from today on, every business would have a 67% share ready for Malays to be taken up at any time”.
As in post-election 1969, the MCA has decided against joining the new cabinet in response to the popular will. With only seven Chinese members among BN’s 133 parliamentary delegates, the question of a lack of Chinese representation in the new government has already been raised in certain quarters.
Like UMNO’s relentless efforts to co-opt the opposition after the 1969 polls, calls have been made for the DAP to join BN to represent the Chinese, or for a grand coalition government to include both BN and PR. The pro-BN Chinese daily Sin Chew misleadingly reported that DAP was contemplating the proposal of forming a coalition government with BN.
Unfortunately for Najib, the Malaysia he faces is vastly different from the racially-charged one his father took over in 1969. Malaysians’ knee-jerk reaction to speculation of possible race-based riots and political violence has virtually disappeared in the past five years. Post-election riots have not materialized, despite UMNO and BN stalwarts race-baiting public statements.
The 2008 elections saw PR take power in five out of Malaysia’s 13 federal states, including the comparatively prosperous states of Selangor and Penang. Significantly, Malaysians have grown more cohesive in their protest against electoral fraud and corruption under the BN. Even though political violence may break out anywhere anytime, the probability of it spreading along communal lines is almost nil.
Thanks to UMNO’s pro-Malay policies after 1969, the socio-economic status of many Malays has improved over the years, closing once yawning inter-communal gaps in wealth and income. After the Utusan Malaysia’s provocative headlines, warnings have spread through SMS to the Chinese that they should refrain from any protests against election fraud to avoid becoming the target of another May 13, 1969 riot.
Despite those threats, the protest rallies organized by PR in Kuala Lumpur and the states of Penang and Perak have attracted tens of thousands angry citizens clad in black, the symbolic color for mourning, to lament the death of democracy after BN’s questionable victory on May 5. The rally participants have been multi-ethnic and youthful.
In the early 1970s, then prime minister Abdul Razak dismissed democratic participation in the name of communal harmony. “In our Malaysian society of today, where racial manifestations are very much in exercise, any form of politicking is bound to follow along racial lines and will only enhance the divisive tendencies,” Razak said.
Now, in 2013, young adults and even teenagers are marching in high spirits to the opposition rallies, almost as if they are attending dance parties. Ironically, politics now unites Malaysians who yearn for change regardless of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In the first black-clad rally held in Kelana Jaya, where some 120,000 reportedly attended, a group of Malays shouted “we are Chinese” in response to Utusan Malaysia’s racial hate-mongering.
Personified by the marching multi-ethnic youth clad in black, Malaysia has finally left behind the threat of ethnic riots after 44 years. Najib may believe that his party and coalition won the 2013 election, but anyone who has seen the recent rally crowds will conclude otherwise: they have lost a generation and the popular mandate to rule.
Posted: 12 May 2013 11:05 PM PDT
PKR is investigating the results of 27 federal seats that Barisan Nasional (BN) won with a razor-thin margin in Election 2013 and where electoral fraud has been reported in most of the seats, Rafizi Ramli said today.
The PKR strategy director noted that the party's #siasatPRU13 team, which he is leading, has received 237 reports from the public on vote-rigging like voters not being allowed to cast their ballots because others had already done so in their name, vote-buying, unidentified voters registered at certain house addresses, flawed indelible ink, foreigners suspected of being given ICs and subsequently voting, as well as Election Commission (EC) officials signing the Borang 14 before vote-counting or not providing copies of Borang 14 to counting agents.
"From our analysis, 27 federal seats will be investigated: Bentong, Kuala Selangor, Baram, Sungai Besar, Pasir Gudang, Labis, Machang, Ketereh, Titiwangsa, Tebrau, Bagan Serai, Kota Marudu, Beaufort, Setiawangsa, Segamat, Ledang, Balik Pulau, Kulim Bandar Bharu, Pulai, Kuala Kangsar, Muar, Pendang, Hulu Selangor, Sabak Bernam, Merbok, Pensiangan and Saratok," Rafizi (picture) told reporters at the PKR headquarters here.
"Except for Hulu Selangor and Machang, all other seats have got reports," he added, referring to reports of electoral fraud.
BN retained power in the May 5 general election with just 133 federal seats, 21 more than the 112 required to win a simple majority.
Rafizi said his team shortlisted the 27 parliamentary seats based on four criteria: a margin of victory of less than 5 per cent, spoilt votes exceeding the margin of victory, postal votes and early votes exceeding the margin of victory based on normal votes, and reports of vote-rigging.
He pointed out that in Balik Pulau, for example, his team has received photographic evidence of BN agents providing voters vouchers that could be exchanged for cash.
Rafizi said 19 of the 27 disputed seats were contested by PKR, pointing out that those hotly-contested seats were mixed seats with Malays forming between 60 and 70 per cent of the electorate.
He noted that vote-rigging would have the biggest impact in seats with slim margins of victory, saying: "Fraud can only bring in maximum 2,000, 3,000 votes."
Rafizi said his team has 67 volunteers, comprising mostly lawyers and accountants, who will record evidence from complainants this week.
"Once we go through the whole process, we'll bring up our case to the People's Tribunal," he said, referring to the tribunal set up by polls watchdog Bersih to examine evidence on electoral irregularities.
Rafizi added that election petitions would be filed by the end of the month, but said he did not expect favourable verdicts.
"The main problem is the existence of phantom voters. But as long as one has an IC and his name is in the roll, he's a legitimate voter," he said.
"What is important is creating the momentum, awareness and disgust among the people on how various methods of cheating by BN were used to skew the results," he added.
Thousands of Malaysians from various races and ages flooded recent PR rallies in Petaling Jaya, Penang and Ipoh to protest against alleged vote-rigging in Election 2013 and the legitimacy of the BN government.
Rafizi also noted today that electoral fraud was detected in federal seats won by PR like Pandan, which he himself had won, Lembah Pantai and Selayang.
Posted: 12 May 2013 10:54 PM PDT
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim vowed last night never to surrender Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) fight to ensure the pact claims its rightful place in Putrajaya, maintaining his stance that Barisan Nasional (BN) had cheated its way to victory on May 5.
The de facto PR leader, looking energetic and full of gumption as he addressed thousands of black-clad supporters at PR's third post-Election 2013 rally in Ipoh, acknowledged that it has been a week since the polls results were formally announced.
But he insisted that although Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been sworn in as prime minister and it appears to be business as usual for the ruling pact in Putrajaya, the BN chairman and Umno president was not the actual person chosen for the job.
"Umno leaders would say, 'we have the mandate so you shut up'. But I say — 'No way'. We have the mandate and we will… lawan tetap lawan (keep on fighting)," he thundered, urging the crowd to sound PR's often-used rallying cry along with him.
"Najib has been endorsed as having won… and he has been sworn in. What should we do?
"So that is why we say…. in Kelana Jaya, we amassed hundreds of thousands of people with just two days' notice… In Penang, hundreds of thousands turned up in Batu Kawan… the people's uprising.
"Why? Because the voice of the people is sacred," the prime minister hopeful continued, unabated.
"On Tuesday, we gather in Kuantan. On Wednesday in Johor. And we will not stop until justice is served in this country.
"We will not stop until the valid results are announced. Yes. We will continue and we will never surrender," he added, according to a live streaming of the event last night.
Anwar and his team in PR have insisted that the just-concluded May 5 polls were rigged, citing irregular voting patterns, suspicious handling of ballot boxes and other issues.
Claiming to have gathered sufficient evidence to back their claims, lawyers from both the DAP and PAS are mulling filing election petitions to contest the results.
PR officials say they are disputing up to 29 election results and the rallies, which began in Selangor last Wednesday, moved on to Penang on Saturday and Perak last night, will continue in Kuantan on Tuesday, followed by Johor on Wednesday.
The ruling BN pact soared to a narrow victory on May 5 with just 133 federal seats to PR's 89, significantly lower than the 140 seats it won in Election 2008.
But even more daunting for BN was that it lost the overall popular vote, garnering just under 48 per cent of the votes cast, a significant three-percentage point lower than PR's 51 per cent.
In Perak, BN fared even worse, polling just 507,123 or 45.25 per cent of the votes cast, trailing behind PR's 613,490 votes or 54.75 per cent, despite sailing to an overall victory in the silver state with 31 seats in the 59-seat assembly.
Perak PR leaders have cried foul over the results, insisting that administrative power over the state should be theirs as the majority of Perak folk had voted against BN.
In his speech earlier, Anwar also slammed senior Umno leader Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz for claiming that the Chinese community who voted against BN had been misled into thinking that a government led by PR would lead to the abolishment of Bumiputera and Malay rights.
The Permatang Pauh MP denied this, pointing to a signed agreement between all three PR parties — the DAP, PKR and PAS — which formally endorsed all provisions in the Federal Constitution, including Article 153, which touches on the special privileges of the country's dominant ethnic group.
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