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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Malaysia's future lies in Malaysian hands! Electoral system for GE13 ready now?

FINALLY, the curtain has been drawn and the ball is at our feet to decide the destiny of our nation over the next five years.

 The much-awaited announcement on the dissolution of Parliament was made at 11.30am yesterday, exactly four years after Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took office as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Although everyone waited for the dissolution for quite some time, I think the Prime Minister waited till this day to complete his four years of premiership. And of course, he had a lot on his agenda to be completed especially the Janji Ditepati tour and all his other innovative and transformative plans.

Whether the polls were called last year or not, it’s the prerogative of the PM of the day to call the shots and he had done it well within the stipulated period. He had until April 28 to do so.

Polling should be held within 60 days and my guess is it will be held within 30 days and let’s hope the voters will make good use of this opportunity to elect the right people to run the country.

Our future lies in the hands of 13 million voters and everyone should exercise their vote with utmost sincerity. Whichever divide we support, let’s be rational and civil about it.

At the end of the day, we are talking about our nation, our beloved Malaysia.

I am not propagating whom you should vote for but vote you must, professionally and wisely.

Do not be misled and succumb to empty promises.

We need a leader who is truly a Malaysian at heart, one who cares for the rakyat. Reject the extremists.

As the Prime Minister has said, do not derail Vision 2020. Whoever comes to power should focus their attention on achieving the developed status of our country.

Vision 2020 is not only Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s dream but the dream of all Malaysians.

Policies and plans laid out for the betterment of the country should be complemented. One should always put the nation above self.

To all the parties, especially Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, I hope that common sense will prevail before, during and after the polls.

Let’s hope and pray the run-up to the elections will be fair and clean and at the same time the parties concerned will act maturely and ethically.

At the end of the day, common sense should prevail and chaos after the elections should not be an option.

All parties should accept the decision of the voters and the verdict gracefully.

To the winners, syabas and to those who failed, I wish you the best the next time around.

Do not underestimate the intelligence of the voters. We are no more the katak di bawah tempurung - simply put, naive.

We, the rakyat, are very well-informed and would not be easily swayed by sweet talk or fiery speeches. We only want the truth and the best from our elected representatives.

JAYARAJ KGS Sitiawan - The Star

Is Malaysia’s electoral system ready for GE13? 

One of the special features in Malaysia’s multi-ethnic society is the still predominantly race-based party system. UMNO, the long term dominant ruling party was founded in 1946 as a reaction against the granting of citizenship to Chinese and Indian immigrants upon independence. 

With a possible, some say probable, watershed and regime change for Malaysia’s increasingly competitive political system in the pipeline, it is useful to look into the election system and its mechanisms. The media, fascinated with personality clashes, campaign highlights and the outcome of elections, don’t look too often into details of the electoral law. And most voters don’t care much whether the ruling governments tweak the rules in their own favour, most often by changing the boundaries of precincts more or less unnoticed – the old, widespread, and popular gerrymandering. Malaysia is not alone here, but the discrepancies in the electoral size of constituencies in favour of Malay and against Chinese areas have been “adjusted” frequently and helped the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to safeguard its dominance over the last decades.

One of the special features in Malaysia’s multi-ethnic society is the still predominantly race-based party system. UMNO, the long term dominant ruling party was founded in 1946 as a reaction against the granting of citizenship to Chinese and Indian immigrants upon independence. The defensive attitude of the Malay (then shaky) majority, understandably insisting on political dominance in their own homeland, led to the formation of other ethnic-based political parties. UMNO, in a successful move to broaden its support base since 1974, managed to co-opt the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC),  the Malaysian People’s Movement Party (GERAKAN) and a number of parties in Sabah and Sarawak into the National Front (Barisan Nasional / BN) coalition (now altogether 13 parties), which enjoyed a huge majority in Parliament until 2008.

Irregularities in most general elections until now have been reported quite regularly. The long list reaches from vote buying, stuffing of ballot boxes, bussing of voters to other constituencies and multiple voting, “phantom voters”, “imported voters”, “missing voters”, manipulated voters lists, to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants (mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines). The latter is now one of the major arguments to attack UMNO and Prime Minister Najib Razak for this citizenship for votes trick. Najib, who has promised his followers to win back the coalition’s two-thirds majority, seems to struggle for political survival now, if rumours and polls are a reliable indicator.

The Barisan Nasional has been only nominally multi-racial but cemented in reality the Malay dominance and privileges (with quite a number of affirmative action measures), which nearly guaranteed so called “safe deposit” constituencies especially in rural areas. Pretending that the Malay political dominance was under threat has always rallied Malay voters behind the ruling coalition. And to make things even more difficult, the competition of the Islamic Party PAS often forced UMNO to demonstrate its religious credentials. With the resentment against this concept among non-Malay minorities (at least about 30%) growing with the frustration about strings of prominent corruption-scandals, it was a logical strategic move for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to form a multi-racial party, the Peoples’ Justice Party or Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2003. Anwar, after being sacked from UMNO and his post as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998, accused under dubious circumstances of corruption and sodomy and imprisoned, is back on the political scene since 2008 and the probable Prime Minister if his opposition “Peoples’ Pact” (Pakatan Rakyat / PR) wins the upcoming election. The Pakatan Rakyat is not without internal problems given the diversity of its members, namely the Malay Islamic rival of UMNO, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and the Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP). However, given the erosion of the Barisan Nasional component parties Gerakan (officially multi-racial but predominantly Chinese and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Pakatan Rakyat seems to be a very strong challenger to the ruling coalition.

Inherited from the British colonial master, Malaysia has adopted a clear-cut first-past-the-post majoritarian election system which has helped to keep UMNO and its BN component parties in power so far. The Barisan-coalition contesting the elections practically as one single party gave few choices to the voters and made it more than difficult for opposition parties to make inroads… until 2008 when more voters were fed up with arrogance of power and all too visible corruption. The majority of the BN in 2008 was clear, with 140 seats against 82 for the opposition, which is four times their previous share. But in relative vote shares it was as narrow as 50.27% against 46.75%. And nota bene: in the first-past-the-post electoral system relatively small changes in voter preferences can change the outcome dramatically.

By Wolfgang Sachsenroeder, New Mandala  

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