While the ruling party in Malaysia is very different from the PAP, there are several common traits they share. One is the control of the traditional news media. I always pick up a copy of the English newspapers whenever I go to Malaysia - there is plenty of coverage for govt programmes, the leaders and nothing about the opposition - if there is something, it is usually negative. The Malaysian opposition has been able to overcome the state controlled media using the Internet and social media for its campaign.
"The mainstream media is completely controlled by the government and denied access to the opposition. Malaysia ranks 145 on Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index and has dropped in the ranking every year since 2003. During the campaign period countless hours of airtime and dozens of pages of newsprint are dedicated to promoting lies and misinformation about the opposition without providing any opportunity for rebuttal. There can be no real democracy with such a lopsided and biased media environment. Throughout the last five years Malaysian authorities have arrested bloggers under charges of sedition and treason." - [Link]
Another issue in this election is the lack of independence of the Election Commission. This election, the Malaysian EC;s reputation is completely ruined. Opposition supporters who are now the majority of Malaysian voters are suspicious of the election results.
There are many issues associated with the Malaysia election process - these include postal mail in votes, phantom voters, etc. In this election, there were accusations that foreigners were flown on chartered flights to closely fought seats to vote for the ruling party, vote buying, ballot stuffing, problems with indelible being washable. While it is not clear if these incidents were widespread, the social media reported many of these showing video evidence like this one below of foreign workers brought to polling centers.
"Based on the voter list gazetted in March 2013 the following has been identified:
- Postal voters who by definition are engaged in national service with a national origin from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Indonesia
- 28,000 Philippinos and Indonesians designated as voters based in
Sabah but casting ballots in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor state
- The Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project has identified countless examples of dubious registrations in the voter file including instances of 100s of registered voters residing in a single home, foreign nationals listed as registered voters, individuals registered doubly as regular and postal voters,
The Election Commission acknowledged many of these problems but failed to take adequate steps to resolve them." [Link]
The Election Commission falls under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department and incidents of possible fraud gets linked quickly to the Malaysian Prime Minister completely eroding the trust of people in the system. The Election Commission should be completely independent and the members should not be elected by leaders of a political party so as to command public confidence. When elections become closely fought, the public can be extremely suspicious of various actions of the EC if it is not an independent body.
The drawing of boundaries of constituencies has a potent effect on the number of seats won by a party. In Peninsula Malaysia, the opposition won 53% of the votes but it lost many closely fought seats because the ruling party could examine previous voting patterns in sub-districts and adjust the boundaries according to get as many seats as possible and to deny proper representation for people who oppose them. These boundaries should be drawn objectively so there is equal weight for each vote.
Najib Razak now says he wants "reconciliation" . It is for Malaysians to decide whether they accept him as their leader after what happened in this election. The majority of Malaysians wanted real change and voted for it. They now feel rather "short-changed" after participating in an election process that left so many unanswered questions. I know a few Malaysians who went back home just to vote from faraway places such as Australia and England. 300,000 Malaysians working in Singapore rushed home last weekend to cast their votes. They knew the importance of this election and how it could have changed the course of the country.