Written by Tessa Houghton
Posted 6 May 2013 18:40 GMT
Malaysians from all walks of life are currently in a state of outrage following the outcome of the nation's 13th General Election, which has been marred with what appears to be widespread and massive electoral fraud and gerrymandering.
Many social media users are blacking out their Facebook and Twitter avatars and walking silently in malls dressed in black to protest what is being described as the ‘death of democracy’ in Malaysia. Both the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR/'The People's Pact'), and Bersih (‘Clean'), the national movement for free and fair elections, are refusing to accept the official result, which has resulted in Barisan Nasional (BN/'The National Front'), the coalition which has governed the country for 56 years, being sworn into power for their 13th term running.
Despite gaining 53.5% of the popular vote in an election which saw over 84% voter turnout (the highest in Malaysia's history), PR only managed to secure 89 of 222 parliamentary seats, with BN taking 133 seats (with only 46.5% of the popular vote) to form the government.
The image below, which is being shared widely on Facebook, highlights the alleged offenses:
Beyond the structural issues above, and other factors such as BN's political-economic control of Malaysia's offline media, the ‘indelible ink’ used to mark voters’ fingers was able to be cleaned off with very little effort, and was applied prior to marking the ballot paper, likely contributing to the huge numbers of ‘spoilt’ or rejected votes.
Malaysian citizens around Kuala Lumpur reported numerous instances of foreigners with suspect ID Kads trying to vote, with some coming back and trying to vote with up to four different ID Kads despite being chased away, with evidence leaked by the Sarawak Report linking the Prime Minister's Office to planeloads of suspect voters flown in to Selangor from East Malaysia.
As votes were being tallied on the evening of the 5th, scuffles ensued in Bangsar, one of the suburbs encompassed by the hotly-contested Lembah Pantai seat, as citizens supporting Calon (candidate) Nurul Izzah Anwar, daughter of the the much-persecuted opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, fought to prevent vehicles trying to take suspect ballot boxes into the tallying station. They were threatened with tear-gas by the Federal Reserve Unit who were called in to intervene, but were successful in not allowing the ballot boxes, which were marked with another electorate's ID code, into the tallying station.
The following image is one of many circulating on Facebook documenting the incident:
From roughly 8.30 p.m. to after midnight, results are alleged to have been held back by recounts demanded by the government following opposition victories in various electorates. This period saw the occurrence of several electricity blackouts around the country, following which, vote recounts revealed that government candidates had in fact won the seats.
It is alleged that extra votes were smuggled in under the cover of the temporary darkness, with the phrase ‘Magic Blackout’ being used by many disbelieving and angry Malaysians. One polling agent recounts the evening here:
Yesterday, by adding up all the ‘scores’ – it seemed like PR has won, and won big.
But no announcements were made. At the EC's main counting centres, recounts were requested on seats that BN lost in (even after all the different saluran had already confirmed the count), blackouts happened, mystery boxes appear – and then suddenly – BN candidates are winning. And then and only then, The EC comes out with official result statements: BN has won this seat, BN has won this other seat. Too dodgy.
PoliTweet, an organisation mapping political social networking activity in Malaysia, logged the surge of tweets/minute containing the word ‘blackout’ during this period:
The threshold of 112 seats to form the governments was finally officially announced as having been met by BN at approximately 1.05am 6th May, with Twitter and Facebook exploding as people grappled with the news following the long information blackout. Caretaker/Returned Prime Minister Najib Razak announced his party's success on national television shortly after and stating that the swing towards the opposition was due to a ‘Chinese Tsunami’ – a rising swell of support for the opposition from ethnically Chinese Malaysians, who have been disenfranchised by BN's New Economic Policy, an affirmative action policy instantiated in the 1970s which grants special privileges to ethnic Malays (known as Bumiputras, or ‘princes of the soil'), and its descendent, the National Development Policy.
His statements have been much criticised, with many countering that the ‘tsunami’ is more accurately described as coming from the Malaysian multi-ethnic urban/middle-class, who increasingly reject BN's race-based policies, and who view the party as arrogant and corrupt.
There is widespread uncertainty in Malaysia over what the next few weeks will bring, as there is a period of 21 days in which the results may be contested. Bersih and PR are vowing to continue to demand accountability from BN and the Election Commission, with PR's Anwar Ibrahim calling for Malaysians to “join hands and express our rejection and disgust at the unprecedented electoral frauds committed by Najib and the EC”. He has announced a rally on the evening of May 8th, when he will address Malaysians for the first time since the polls. A Change.org petition calling for international intervention has already garnered 180,000 signatures, and continues to swell.
Many citizens are still in a state of shock, but with a simmering undercurrent of outrage not likely to dissipate any time soon, and with over half the population feeling a clear sense of being cheated of both their democratic rights as citizens and of the government they wanted, Malaysia faces a real crisis of governmental legitimacy.