Malaysia Dedicated to Clean and Fair Elections

Despite a disappointing election, Malaysians remain dedicated to the fight for a fair vote

By: Maureen Lu, Staff Writer

May 8th Protest at the State Library in Melbourne

May 8th Protest at the State Library in Melbourne

For the first time, registered voters looking to vote on Malaysia’s 13th general election were able to do so overseas at Malaysian diplomatic missions. Eileen Yong is an Australian-based Malaysian. Like a lot of her peers in both Malaysia and overseas, she is enthusiastic about Malaysian politics. She voted in Melbourne on April 28th 2013, one week before the formal election process in Malaysia.

Eileen is not alone in voting for the Malaysian Election from abroad. 16, 000 globally dispersed Malaysians voted in the election. 1000 voted from Australia, with voting available at the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra and two consulates in Melbourne and Perth. Malaysians from Sydney and Brisbane drove or flew to Melbourne to vote.

“People are passionate about this election, because it is anticipated that the election will be very close between the incumbent and the opposition. People realize that for this time their one vote can actually make a difference,” said a Melbourne-based Malaysian banker.

However, passion for voting swiftly turned into protesting after the election result was announced. Malaysia’s governing coalition, Barisan Nasional, won 133 out of 222 seats, insuring its continuation as one of the world’s longest-ruling parties.  The BN has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1957.

Allegations of a fraud election are now floating around, especially through social media. [pullquote]Videos on Facebook show buses full of voters being escorted by police forces to the polling centers.[/pullquote] The Opposition party and many social media exchanges believe that those are foreign immigrants from Bangladesh, the Philippines and Indonesia arranged by the government to vote illegally.

Allegations also assert that the ruling government created power blackouts at several polling centers where the Opposition had a lead. After the electricity came back, the votes counting for the ruling party had suspiciously increased.

The election authorities explained that the Malaysians include different ethnic communities with different appearances, so it is hard to just tell from the looks of someone whether they are in fact a legitimate Malaysian voter. They also firmly denied the allegations of blackouts. “Most of my friends have changed their Facebook profile image to black to show their anger about the blackout scheme of the government,” said Yong.

On May 8th, Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, called for a “Black 505” rally to protest the result. The rally spread throughout Malaysia and overseas to Australia. On the same day, almost 200 Malaysians gathered in front of the State Library in Melbourne. Most of them were in their twenties. They wore black to support the rally in Malaysia and held up signs proclaiming “save Malaysia” and “we want a clean and fair election.”

As a Chinese Malaysian, Yong also expressed her concern when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak unhappily called the Chinese voters for the opposition  “Chinese tsunami,” and blamed them for the loss of several administration candidates in a national television news conference after the election.

This accusation might cause more racial division throughout the country. Under the current system, the ethnic Malays majority have been given preference in business, housing and education in fear of Indian and Chinese minorities gaining greater prosperity. This policy has lead to a flight of capital and talents from the country.

Chinese voters traditionally have great power in Malaysian economy. Even though ethnic Malays have benefited from positive discrimination in business, ethnic Chinese still hold economic control and are the wealthiest community in the country.

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