Tensions continue to simmer in Malaysia, following an intense and hotly contested election a few weeks ago. Among other things, the opposition, lead by Anwar Ibrahim, has charged that ruling coalition Barisan Nasional stole the election and that the Election Commission (EC) itself is corrupt. The EC come under fire for corruption and alleged election committee tampering. Now, Prime Minister Najib is moving to change Malaysia’s Election Commission, in an effort to boost confidence. Still, it remains to be seen if such a move will calm a restless opposition movement.
Malaysia Experienced Most Intense Election:
Just a few short weeks ago Malaysia experienced perhaps the most intense election in its history. The long ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was returned to power, but with only 47 percent of the vote. Meanwhile the opposition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) hauled in nearly 52 percent of the vote. This was possible due to extreme gerrymandering measures that concentrate political power in Malay dominant rural areas.
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Beyond Gerrymandering, Pakatan Rakyat has accused Barisan Nasional of using ghost voters, and handing out national identity cards to foreign born individuals in exchange for votes. There have been unconfirmed rumors that in several voting centers, power was mysteriously cut out and suddenly new boxes of votes appeared. There have also been rumors of people showing up with boxes of “overseas” and “mail in” votes, all marked heavily in favor of Barisan Nasional.
So far, PR has taken these reports as proof that the election was stolen. Meanwhile, BN has alleged that these allegations are merely rumors being spread maliciously to create discontent. As of yet, the Opposition has failed to present any concrete evidence, such as photos or video evidence, of the alleged tampering. PR leader Anwar Ibrahim has promised that his coalition will present concrete evidence. The Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis has also alleged numerous dubious circumstances, including hundreds of voters being registered to a single house.
Among other slip ups, the Election Commission has also been slammed for using indelible ink that could easily be washed off. Indelible ink is supposed to be difficult to wash off, and marks individuals who have already voted. In theory, it should take more than a day for the ink to wash off, so individuals who have been marked, will not be able to vote again. Across Malaysia, however, voters reported that they could easily wash off the ink within a few minutes with soap and water. The Election Commission has stated that the ink mix up occurred because they were trying to find halal ink (which must breath).
The biggest move announced so far will be the formation of a panel to provide oversight for the Election Commission. Najib has promised that members from both BN and PR would be on the panel. Under this arrangement, the Commission would report directly to the advisory panel, consisting of members from Parliament, instead of reporting to the Prime Minister’s office.
Many are calling for a new head non-partisan of the Election Commission. An important question that must be asked is whether BN could even find a neutral party if it so wanted too. Politics have become so polarized in the South East Asian nation that most people have already chosen one side or another. Finding an individual to head the commission who will be able to garner the support and trust of both sides will prove difficult, even in BN is sincere in its desire to create a non-partisan Election Commission.