Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Study finds Malaysia near bottom in electoral integrity

Looi Sue-Chern


Study finds Malaysia near bottom in electoral integrity  
The study found the electoral process was systematically manipulated to bias outcomes meant to keep BN in power. – EPA file pic, December 1, 2017.



MALAYSIA ranks higher than Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Afghanistan in electoral integrity, but far behind regional neighbours Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, according to an academic paper on elections.

The research paper titled “Malaysia’s Electoral Process: The Methods and Costs of Perpetuating Umno Rule” assigns a PEI (Global Perceptions of Electoral Integrity) score that measures electoral laws, electoral procedures, district boundaries, voter registration, party registration, media coverage, campaign finance, the voting process, and vote count to capture an electoral system’s degree of manipulation.

Malaysia ranked 142nd out of 158 countries in terms of electoral integrity.

Zimbabwe were 143; Vietnam, 147; and Afghanistan, 150.

“Nearly all other countries in this category have experienced deep social and political instability like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, or have single party system like Vietnam that precludes meaningful electoral competition,” the report said.

“Neither of these is true for Malaysia, making it a clear outlier in the category.

“Malaysia has a strong and well institutionalised state that has provided relative social stability, a high level of human development, and robust economic development. 

“This developmental success brings Malaysia’s poor electoral integrity into stark contrast and suggests its deficiencies are the result of deliberate manipulations, rather than a by-product of developmental strife.”

Denmark scored the highest PEI score of 86, while Southeast Asian neighbours Indonesia ranked 68, Myanmar 83, Singapore, 94 and the Philippines 101.

The research paper also found a strong bias in the delineation of electoral boundaries in Malaysia. 

“Levels of malapportionment are now among the highest in the world; in fact, the EIP (Electoral Integrity Project) ranks Malaysia’s electoral boundaries as the most biased of the 155 countries assessed,” said the report.

EIP is an independent academic project based at Harvard University and the University of Sydney.
Kai Ostwald says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics. – YouTube pic, December 1, 2017. 
Kai Ostwald says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics. – YouTube pic, December 1, 2017.
The paper was written this year by University of British Columbia’s Assistant Professor Kai Ostwald from the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs & Department of Political Science. 

He uploaded the paper onto the site ResearchGate late last month.

The paper claims to act as a primer on elections in Malaysia by providing a systematic assessment of how the electoral process is strategically manipulated to secure the political dominance of Umno and its coalition partners in Barisan Nasional.

It looks into the country’s institutional structure, electoral history, and how Malaysia allegedly manipulates its electoral system more significantly than other countries with comparable levels of development and institutionalisation.

Ostwald noted former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics.

The electoral process, he said, was systematically manipulated to bias outcomes meant to keep BN in power.

In the 2013 general election, BN won 83 of the 86 smallest districts, while the opposition – the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat – won a substantial majority of the largest one third of districts. 

Despite getting only 47% of the popular vote, BN retained the federal government.

“The opposition in Malaysia is granted enough operating space to contest and win seats at the federal level, and occasionally to form governments at the state level. 

“This does not make elections free and generally fair,” said Ostwald.

He also highlighted the ongoing attempt by the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to register as a coalition, and the DAP’s troubles with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) over its central executive committee election.

“RoS, which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has shown pro BN institutional bias. The RoS is responsible for overseeing the registration and operation of societies, including political parties. 

“It has the power to block the formation of new parties or de register parties that do not follow its provisions, which cover a wide range of areas from parties’ internal governance to their names and symbols.”

Other issues Ostwald highlighted included the selective use of the Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma); the widely questioned independence and partiality of the judiciary; control over the mass media through laws and ownership; and restrictions on the new media. – December 1, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

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