by Lee Yu Kyung, Kuala Lumpur 21 May 2013
A hundred of thousands people around metropolitan area in Malaysia turned out for mega rally in Kelena Jaya Stadium – outskirt of Kuala Lumpur – on May 8. It was a protest over, what they call, ‘stolen election’, which was held on May 5th amidst strong allegations of fraud. Ruling coalition Barisan National (BN, or National Front) led by United Malaysia National Organization (or UMNO) was a main force accused of irregularities. BN nevertheless has become a slim winner securing its reign for over 60 years, while opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR, or People’s Alliance) denounced the result calling it ‘BLACK 505’.
With cheering crowds, many of whom were in black shirts as a sign of ‘demise of democracy’, the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the stage appeared no more gloomy, unlike to when he showed up at midnight press conference on polling day along with his alliance leadership including his wife and daughter. Contrary to his pre-election assertion to ‘step down’ if opposition fails to win, Anwar by now has been determined to fight against election fraud. In his rather emotional statement next day, he said “we will never surrender”.
The May 8th rally was opening up for will-be held protests at different locations coming days, such as in Penang on May 11, Perak on May 12 and Johor Baru on May 16 and so forth. The civil society movement named ‘Bersih’ (or the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections), which de facto rallies behind the opposition for the sake of regime change, has vowed to set up ‘People’s Tribunal’ to probe into election fraud.
The heavily disputed election, thus, is at turning point onto the next stage. The battle is to be either in justice or legal field as well as in ‘stadium’ or even on the street perhaps as ‘Black 505 Protest Tour’ continues.
“We will never surrender”
According to the result announced by Election Commission (or EC), BN has won 133 seats versus the opposition PR has won 89 seats out of 222 federal parliamentary seats with 84.84 % turn out. BN has lost 7 seats from the previous election in 2008. It has won only 2 of 11 seats in the capital. It is worst ever performance for BN’s ruling history for more than half a century despite the fact that institutions notably EC and mainstream media have functioned in strong favor of BN.
“Look at my finger. It’s not indelible ink at all. I have voted two and half hours ago. But if I cut nail here, you can’t even see any mark of ink”
On the polling day, a middle-aged woman who wanted to be anonymous other than ‘Ms.Chong’ showed her finger nearby polling station in Lembah Pantai. Lemba Pantai was one of the hotly fought constituencies in the capital, where the opposition leader’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar regained her seat for second term. ‘Indelible’ ink, which was meant to prevent voters from double casting, has been a huge scandal particularly since some advance voters a week ago found that ink was delible. The finding was contradicting to what EC assured ‘7days indelible ink’.
Another foul campaign was money politics, which have dominated BN’s camp. Dr. Michael D. Jeyakumar, the winning socialist candidate of PSM for Sungai Siput in Perak state has revealed in his article for FreeMalaysiaToday that house-owners who allowed the BN to tie banners on the fronts or sides of their houses were paid 300 Ringit (approximately 100 USD). There have been ongoing accounts about ‘dinner’ or ‘party’ in Penang, the western state of opposition strong hold, and elsewhere. Malaysian social NGO Aliranhas recently revealed that post-election payouts by BN in Penang took place. Little exception was in the capital. To make one quite baffled, it’s plainly practiced again in BN camps.
“Yes, we got paid. 100 ringgit (35 USD) per day” said one ‘volunteer’ for a BN candidate in Kuala Lumpur in the run-up to the election. “Good money” said other ‘volunteers’. And all agreed on “love our Prime Minister Najib”. But the same candidate has paid a migrant worker half of this amount. The party members called the migrant, who’s from Indonesian, “part time volunteer” with no sign of disgrace at all.
“I cannot earn 50 ringgit from other job because I can’t speak English” said the 45 year old, who came to Malaysia 5 months ago. “It’s good for me to work here as I can pay my rent, which is 700 ringgit per month” he added.
As Malaysia is a multi-ethno country, where faces are varied between Chinese, Malay and Indian origins, ‘foreigners’ – often the most vulnerable in the society – from neighboring countries have been exploited by political parties in many respect. There have been ongoing allegations that ruling coalition has transported foreigners into certain constituencies to make them enable to cast a vote for ruling party.
As a matter of fact, the issue of ‘foreign voters’ has been controversy for long but mainly in Sabah and Sarawak – both Malaysia territory on Borneo Island – due to high presence of Indonesians and Philippines. This time, however, the issue has been spilled over to the Malay Peninsula as well.
“In Malaysia, although naturalized citizens are entitled to have a right to vote, many others were hurriedly issued a temporary IC card to vote for ruling party, and then deprived of the document after sometime” said Ong BK, activist from Malaysian Election Observation Network who monitored election in Sabah. Bersih has highlighted the issue pointing out in its statement on May 3rd,
“The Election Commission has denied the postal vote to hundreds of thousands of East Malaysians (those who are from Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo Island) working in the peninsula, and even more citizens working in Singapore, is now standing mute as planeloads of people are being flown into the peninsula to vote”.
Yet the issue has become perplexed causing some ugly skirmishes in a few polling stations notably Pandamaran constituency in Klang state. There, allegedly ‘foreigners’ were bussed but caught up by vigilant locals who kneeled them down. And some were even beaten up by angry mob.
In Lembah Pantai, where this writer has stayed for hours, one man was blocked by people as he approached polling station. Despite he has shown his IC card, already frustrated people aggressively suspected he was ‘Bangladeshi’ due to poor Malay speaking and to dark-skin of course. Yet nobody ascertained as to whether or not he has a right to vote. There’s no mechanism at all on the spot to clarify only but high risks to victimize those dark-skinned who can be mistaken in the first place. There’s a case indeed.
One Indian Malaysian having Chinese name because he was adopted by Chinese family, was mistaken as ‘foreigner’. The photo of his IC card was being speedily circulated to reach even this writer by one Chinese voter around 1pm on the polling day. This has raised a serious question of another form of racism among reformative citizens and parties, who have all along condemned the BN’s racism.
Unfortunately, civil society and opposition parties alike have failed or been shy to condemn it. They also have failed to set some kind of ‘code of conduct’ if encountered such circumstances.
“Yes, this is major concern. It’s creating a form of xenophobic feeling. It’s been already happening in social media” said Irene Fernandez, co-chair of Bersih Special Committee on Code of Conduct and also working for migrants, when asked about the ‘foreign voters’ issue.
“I think it is right that those who have lived in Sabah for generations be granted a citizenship to have a right to vote, but through proper process. You must not forget that more than 300,000 Indians and indigenous people have no ID cards. We need to resolve this problem through transparent measures” She pointed out.
As for ruling coalition, racial politics have been just blunt. Right after the election, Prime Minister Najib Razak has attributed BN’s poor performance to Chinese, terming it ‘Chines Tsunami’. Although it is true that many Chinese have deserted BN, which includes Chinese-based party MCA though, to support opposition, it is more a reflection that those Chinese (along with quite some Malay voters) pursue to change rulers’ faces. Nevertheless the former Prime Minister Dr. Mahatir Mohamad, who’s an advisor of right wing group Perkasa, made more provocative statement saying “most of the Chinese had rejected the Malays’ hands of friendship.” He has accused DAP, the Chinese based but multi-ethnic party in opposition alliance, of inciting hatred towards Malays.
Meanwhile, the opposition PR has lost the election with unexpectedly huge margin. It has won 7 more seats from the 2008 election, however, gaining 53.29% (5.49 million) of total votes whereas the ruling BN has won 45.74% (5.22 million). It’s obvious that ‘Gerimandering’ has been playing out in Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy. In Sabah and Sarawak in particular, where much less population but more constituencies are, BN has won 47 seats for which claimed 47.38% of votes only, whereas oppositions have won 9 seats for which they won 50.87% of votes. Apart from this, some analysts pointed out that the opposition hasn’t mobilized enough in rural constituencies, where even mobile connection isn’t available needless to say of internet or SNS politics due to poor infrastructures.
“I wouldn’t think opposition is gonna win because of the rural constituencies, particularly Sabah and Sarawak” Anil Netto, political analyst and also independent journalist predicted days before the election. This was echoed by Hishamudin Rais, influential cultural figure amongst youth.
“This would be a stolen election” said Hishamudin Rais in an email interview. “For regime change, my response is ‘no’ in realpolitik, but with mood in the country, ‘yes’ ’’
The mood of regime change has propped up ongoing protest over the ‘stolen’ election in post-election time though, action appear to be mobilized by political parties than people’s movement. It wouldn’t seem to be developed up to the level of uprisings, which have been taken place in many Asian countries. Lim Kit Siang a leader of main opposition Democratic Action Party (or DAP) himself told Radio Australia,
“We definitely do not want an ‘Arab spring’ in the sense of having national incidents and all that”.
Likewise, Nurul Izzah, the aspiring figure of young generations denied there could be ‘unrest’ even if opposition would be lost, indicating ‘street protest’ might not be reaction.
“You gonna compare to Thailand? We have taken pain to manage our supporters and told them not to retaliate” said Nurul Izzah in a midnight interview while her mobile campaign. She also said “I think new generation is far more mature” comparing to the former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad, who has been unleashed to speak out whatever and whenever.
Bersih leader has already announced “No Bersih 4.0” for the time being. There’s saying that some sections within opposition alliance quietly accepted the result, not to make much efforts to mobilize for the ongoing rally.
However, it doesn’t include all about dissidents’ voices. There are calls for street protest or ‘Bersih 4.0’ among youth, some section of civil society and radical political arena. A student activist Adam Adil Abdul Halim, who was recently arrested on May 18, was among them. Calling for street demonstration, he has reportedly made a speech at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in the capital,
“Elections won’t overthrow the government, the people’s power will”
Published by MyGreenNews.Com click