Pixs (STAR) : Mrs. Prime Minister Jeanne Abdullah handing out ‘angpows’ (red packet with money) during the 12GE campaign – a classic and blatant case of ‘vote-buying’.
THANKS to Blogger Black @ Amin Iskandar for this report:
Independent election observer, the National Institute of Electoral Integrity (NIEI) has issued a report on the 12 General Elections.
Among others, the report cited violence, threats, abuse, phantom voters, vote buying and irregularities in several constituencies.
In conclusion, NIEI said the 12 GE was relatively peaceful, albeit a few incidents which did not significantly affect the overall election process.
However, NIEI chairperson Yunus Ali added that citizen’s freedom of informed choices was seriously restricted by laws and regulations on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, press and associaition. The election process was grossly unfair to non-government political parties.
For FULL REPORT:
A Brief Report on
Malaysian 12th General Election 8th Mac 2008
NATIONAL INSTITUTE for ELECTORAL INTEGRITY
Malaysia practiced constitutional monarchy with a king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislature.
The country has a relatively long history of election to elect representatives into decision-making body of the Parliament and the state. The first election was held in 1954 for the Kuala Lumpur City Council and later followed by the Federation of Malaya Legislative Council.
At the federal level, elected members of the Dewan Rakyat (Hall of the People -Parliament) hold office for a maximum term of five years. As Malaysia practiced first-past the post, the majority political party with the most seats, or a coalition of political parties, will form the federal government. The government will be lead by a prime minister, with the consent from the king. S/he in turn has the prerogative to appoint his cabinet members.
There is a Senate House, Dewan Negara, that debate and makes decision on governance-related matters. But in reality, it functions like a rubber stamp to the Dewan Rakyat, and virtually works at the whim of the prime minister. All members of the Dewan Negara (senators) are appointed, majority of them by the prime minister.
At the state level, state councilors are elected into Dewan Negeri (State Council) and the majority political party or coalition of political parties form the State Executive body with a chief minister as its head of government, and sultan or governor as head of each state.
Generally, dissolution and election of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negeri takes place simultaneously once in every five years. However, the prime minister of the federal government has the sole prerogative to fix the dissolution and election dates within the duration of its five-year term.
The recent 12th Malaysian general election was fixed and carried out on the 8th Mac 2007, with a campaign period of thirteen days.
Overall, the election process thus far, during the campaigning period has been relatively peaceful, although there has been a few, localised incidents of violence for example a Barisan National [BN – the government ruling coalition parties (GRcP)] candidate was punched in Pensiangan and a group of youth wearing BN t-shirts beat up a motorcyclist in Gombak. The ruling BN chartered 130 buses to ferry voters from Kuala Lumpur to the East Cost states of Kelantan and Trengganu (see Picture 1). However, on the polling day busloads of unknown voters ferried by GRcP were being transported into Marang parliamentary constituency in Trengganu which was stopped and mobbed by thousands of members of a non-government party (NGP). Riot police intervened and six people were hurt, and consequently 20 people were detained by the police
An opposition candidate from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR – People Justice Party) in Kota Samarahan received threats via sms for refusing to negotiate his withdrawal from contesting. Various instances of intimidation to hinder the campaigning process, i.e. BN youth intimidating opposition PKR members occurred during PKR’s campaigning process in Rembau.
Another opposition candidate received offer of bribery to withdraw from the election, from the ruling coalition party member in Sarawak, who offered him a sum of RM300,000.
PKR’s candidate, Badrul Hisham Shahrin claimed the party’s campaign posters were torn down, and in Rembau, BN supporters used aggressive means to stop his supporters from putting up PKR posters.
There was disturbance to the PKR campaign in Sungai Siput. When PKR’s erected its stage for a campaign speech, a department from the Ministry of Information built a stage to host a Musical Night (see Picture 2 & 3). During PKR’s public gathering and speeches, loud music blared from the opposite stage, intefering with the ability of the local voters to listen to PKR’s speeches. The stage also featured posters of BN leaders, such as Abdullah Badawi, the prime minister and Samy Vellu, a federal minister and an incumbent candidate.
In Semenyih, posters, banners and flag of NGP were sabotaged – they were taken down and burnt. Police reports were made, but no action was reported to be taken.
In another instance, Lim Guan Eng’s posters of Democratic Action Party (DAP, a NGP) were found to be torn down in the Reservoir Garden area in Penang. According to eye witnesses, these were done by BN youths living in the area. Several residents of the area also saw a group of youths tearing down DAP posters, and putting up Chia Kwang Chai’s, a federal deputy minister and an incumbent candidate. This incident happened in the Reservoir Garden, in the early hours of Thursday and Friday (7th and 8th of Mac 2008).
Overall, there were no instances of violent conflicts or cases of politically motivated assassination, or violent events which will significantly alter the outcome or process of the elections.
Extent of Freedom or the lack of it
The overall structure of Malaysian politics is not free and democratic. There is no freedom of assembly, a group of more than 4 persons can be considered to be an illegal assembly, under the prerogative of definition by the police. To assemble at a rally, a permit must be obtained from the police, who have the sole authority to decide if these rallies are to be given a permit or not.
On one occasion, opposition candidate was forced to stop speaking in the midst of a campaign speech in Sungei Siput parliamentary constituency by the police without reason.
Another important pillar of democracy is the freedom of association. In Malaysia, all political parties and civil organizations have to be registered with the Registrar of Societies which has the sole power to dispense legal status.
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Socialist Party of Malaysia) has for the past five years been trying to get its party registered under the Registrar of Societies, as required by the Malaysian law. NIEI (INTIP before) had also tried to register as a legitimate body for its election monitoring work, but failed to obtain its legal status, and was forced to register as a private company limited.
Another pillar of democracy is freedom of speech and the press. In Malaysia, all TV, radio and print media are owned directly or indirectly by political parties belonging to the ruling coalition government. Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia are owned by UMNO (United Malay National Organization – the dominant GRcP), while The Star, Sinchew and Nanyang (Chinese papers) are owned by MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association – a partner in GRcP).
Vincent Tan, a close associate of former Prime Minister Mahathir, and who is currently involved in a controversial case of fixing the judiciary, has recently bought over the free daily, The Sun.
Television channels, such as the TV3 and NTV 7, 8TV, are owned by UMNO. Whilst RTM (Radio and TV channels of Malaysia) are state owned and control by the ruling coalition party.
These mainstream media hardly gave much coverage to the opposition political parties and have selectively highlighted some civil society issues. Even then coverage of non-government organizations have tended to be confined to negative news and articles, while most articles and news focus on positive aspects, and in favor of the ruling party coalition. During the 13-day campaigning period, more than 75 % of coverage in the news leading up to the elections was on the GRcP.
Alternative print media such as the Harakah, owned by PAS (All Malaysia Islamic Party), Suara Keadilan, owned by PKR and the Rocket, owned by DAP enjoys little circulation. These papers have been unable for years to obtain a permit to allow them to be a daily paper. Distribution of these papers is confined to party members and not allowed for sale to the general public. In the case of Suara Keadilan, they don’t even get a permit to distribute the paper to their members.
Advertisements from the GRcP, usually taking full pages, appear in all mainstream newspapers. In addition, radio and television channels were broadcasting BN news and encouraging voters to vote for BN. NGP, on the other hand, NGPs have no space for advertisements on air, TV or print.
Those that slip through the GRcP control, is bought over by the affected party. For instance, on the 7th of March, the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a press statement, urging Indians not to vote for Samy Vellu of the GRcP. This news article appeared on the front page of the Tamil newspaper. It was alleged that agents of Samy Vellu bought up all the copies of the Tamil newspaper in Sungai Siput.
There was more reliance on other alternative media by the opposition such as wide usage of videos postings in the Youtube, in Blogs spots, and in Internet based news portal, Malaysiakini. The Government has also attempted to silence and/or control alternative media. There have been cases of bloggers being condemned by the ruling coalition in the print media, and prosecution carried out against bloggers, such as Jeff Ooi and Rocky’s Bru (Ahirudin Atan).
However, majority of electorates in Malaysia are not internet savvy. The younger people are more internet savy, but statistics show that this young group of 5 million is unregistered voters in the country.
Fairness of the elections
Upon observation, several events have contributed to the conclusion that the current elections are unfair. Four days before the polling day, the Election Commission (EC) has withdrawn plans made early this year of using indelible ink to identify people who have voted. They have cited the reasons of ‘national security’ and public order. The EC chairman Abdul Rashid said that there were reports made to the police alleging that certain quarters had purchased indelible ink from abroad, with the intention of creating confusion and suspicions as to the status of the voters.
In response, the EC-recognized election observer MAFREL, has partially handed back their status as observer for polls on March 8th. This is in protest to the EC’s failure to implement the usage of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting and fraud.
There have been several reported incidence of irregularities in the electoral roll. In one instance, there were 46 names of Ismail Ibrahim, all born in the year 1962, but with different identity card numbers and they were found registered as voters in various parts of the country.
In Rembau, where the powerful son in law of prime minister is contesting, a 119 years old Safiah Binti Ujang (I/C Number 890211050014/ 1307762) was registered to vote, even though she has long passed away. There has also been recent report of almost 9000 voters over the age of 100 in the electoral rolls, and residences with dozens of registered voters. And on the polling day, March 8th, two phantom voters were identified in Rembau.
Phantom voters in Gual Ipoh, Tanah Merah, were identified. They made confessions to Cikgu Wan Yusuf whose phone number is +6019 9199456.
In another case, a DAP candidate Janice Lee, discovered 26 unknown individuals registered as voters at her family home address. Eight letters regarding polling details were sent to her parents’ residence.
Mohd Efendi Bin Azizi, (I/C number : 781022086349) who was never registered as a voter, found himself listed in the electoral roll as a registered voter in Sungai Siput, Perak.
While, Mohamad Nizam Bin Hamid (I/C number : 710130-02-5537), voted in the Pandan parliamentary seat in the elections of 2004, but then his name was transferred without his knowledge to the Alor Star parliamentry constituency, in this elections. As for his wife, Norhana Bt Jamaludin, (I/c :811226-02-5366) who never register as a voter surprised when she saw her name has been registered as a voter in Baling, Kedah.
Mafrel observer, BK Ong, discovered during his observation that the army and police personnel were required to fill up a separate identity declaration form consisting of their name, identity card, and ballot paper’s serial number prior to voting. Each voter was compelled to enclose both his ballot paper and identity declaration form inside the postal vote envelope before putting it into the ballot bag. (Please see the Identity declaration form photograph at Malaysiakini http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/79292)
Unfairness also happen in the form of vote buying, for examples buy giving voters ‘ang pows’ (cash in red packets) and ‘goodie bags’ by Jeanne Abdullah, wife of the prime minister Abdullah Badawi – is illustrated in the attached picture, which is headed as ‘Jeanne thrilled to be out campaigning’ (see Picture 4).
Instance projects, building of roads and the bringing of electricity to rural areas were quickly carried out by the government. Street lights were installed in Sungai Siput (see Picture 5 & 6)) as well as in different villages around Semenyih.
In the state of Kelantan, a stronghold of NGP PAS, prayer mats and batik sarong were being distributed by the agents of GRcP to the electorates.
Despite the uneven playing field, NGPs have made a very significant inroad into the decision making bodies of Malaysian government. NGPs have captured five states out of thirteen state governments and denied the GRcP the two-third majority that they have enjoyed for along time in parliament. Besides that, the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur also fell to NGPs when they got all the parliament seats except Setiawangsa.
However, it is pertinent to reform the Malaysian election system to make it free and fair:
- The Police Act that restrict the freedom of assembly should be repealed;
- The administrative power of Registrar of Societies should be curtailed, and the laws governing should be reviewed and changed;
- Press and Printing Act should be repealed so that speech and press freedom can flourish in Malaysia;
- Dissolution of assemblies and dates of election should be made known three months before the polling date;
- Malaysian Election Commission has to be reformed to make it truly independent, transparent and accountable;
- The media should be compelled to give equal airtime and space to all contending parties;
- Proportional representation in decision making bodies, taking into consideration interest groups, political parties, ethnic, religious, and gender population should be instituted;
- The civil service and the police particularly should be made impartial in the election process and they should be accountable to all contending parties.
In conclusion, the 12th Malaysian general election was relatively peaceful, albeit with a few incidents which do not significantly affect the overall election process. Citizens’ freedom of making informed choices is seriously restricted by laws and regulations on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and press and freedom of association. Finally, the election process was grossly unfair to non-government political parties.
10 Mac 2008