Political Jockeying Ahead of Malaysia's Elections
Image Credit: Flickr/esharkj

Political Jockeying Ahead of Malaysia's Elections


The police said 45,000 people. Some politicians claimed it was 60,000. Other independent estimates were as high 150,000 individuals. Such squabbling over crowd numbers at political events isn't unique to Malaysia, but nonetheless likely sets the adversarial tone for the coming weeks or months until the next parliamentary election, due to be called by the end of April.

“We want a free and fair election,” said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. “You have a vote and I have a vote. No one should steal our votes. We shall work to defend our votes.”

Two previous opposition-led rallies — in July 2011 and April 2012 — culminated in mass arrests after police fired tear gas and water cannons at tens of thousands demonstrators seeking reform of Malaysia's electoral system.

This time around authorities allowed the rally to take place at a football stadium in Kuala Lumpur where Malaysia's independence was declared in 1957. Everything went smoothly.

The government was generous with self-praise. According to the head of one governing coalition party, Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, “the rally shows that the government is serious about allowing a free and fair election and that it is serious about implementing its reforms in practice."

“The outcome underscores the sincerity and seriousness of the Najib-led National Front (BN) government in providing democratic space and ensuring peaceful assemblies for the people to exercise their rights and freedom with responsibility,” he added.

After the rally, which featured some of the same civil society groups that campaigned in 2011 and 2012 for electoral reforms, the government said that "Malaysia's electoral system is stronger than ever," pointing to recent reforms enacted to the voting system that some activists say are inadequate.  

Although public rallies are a staple of democracies, former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi argued that the event was unnecessary. "They (the opposition) have done this too many times and every time, the crowd was not as large as they had hoped. There's no need to do this again. It only brings about negative impact.”

While Badawi might be easily-dismissed as someone out of touch with the country, his argument will likely be taken up by the government in the coming weeks.

More credibly, the government is likely to point to Malaysia's continued economic growth under its tutelage in order to win support. In November 2012 the World Bank said that Malaysia is expected to register a 5 percent real GDP growth in 2013. “Propelled by domestic demand, Malaysia’s economy is likely to weather a weak global environment,” the World Bank report said.

February 9, 2013 at 15:38

For democracy, peace, GDP, economic growth & electoral reforms the persons who went to jail should consider themselves not to stand for the coming electiion.  There are many young and well educated Professional people in Malaysia.




January 27, 2013 at 21:29

This message is for the malay MPs. The world is watching the country. They will lose confidence in Malaysia if there is corruption and an unfair system of government and invest in other Asian countries. Everyone will then lose out.
Build Malaysia on fairness, respect and love for all races. Lead the world in tolerance and fair clean caring government. Everyone will benefit then.
SL in UK

Sigmund Frued
January 21, 2013 at 22:18

Its not Malays versus non Malays.  Its Muslims versus non Muslims.  You can ask that mad doctor Mahathir that.

January 19, 2013 at 09:40

Najib Razak is a very worry man,he might lose the coming elections.

January 18, 2013 at 17:15

Malaysia is multiethnic country, but there are universities solely to cater the majority population(malays),  Non-malays are not allowed.
When malays take loans from Bank Rakyat their interest is 1-2% lower the non malays.
When malays buy house they get 7-10% discount.  The non malays get none(shit).
Overall Malaysia practices a subtle form of discrimination against the non-malays consisting of chinese, indians and natives

web jockey
January 18, 2013 at 06:14

Do not be too liberal with your comments about the NF (BN). The Multimedia and Communications Act (section 211 & 233) provides for a jail term of up to one year and /or a fine of up to RM50,000 for anyone caught spreading inaccurate news, writing malicious comments, spewing insults and spreading rumours and derogatory remarks, publishing untruthful or mischievous stories and committing criminal incitement using personal or public internet accounts.

Shiro Omiai
January 17, 2013 at 20:56

Malaysia had been governed by the same National Front (or by her predessessor coalition) since her inception back in 1957. Already almost 55 years. It is high time for a change.
To say that the Opposition only manage to win in cities states missed the point. In fact if not the 2 big states in East Malaysia – i.e. Sabah and Sarawak  thrown in for the National Front, there would be a change of government back in 2008.
However things do look pleasant for the National Front this time especailly that the Opposition had manage to win big margin just short to govern Sarawak in the state poll about a year or so ago.
Further, with Sarawak state having the highest number of Christians in the country (Sabah, second) and the usage of "Allah" had not only been used by them since they had been in touch with the Faith and coupled with the fact that Her Lordship Justice Lau in the Kuala Lumpur High Court allowed the appeal by the Church against this prohibition, it would only antagonize these group in the state to vote Opposition Front due to such restriction of the usage of "Allah" by non-Muslim.
One wpuld not be so confident thar the national Front may govern the country this time around.

[...] In advance of June elections in Malaysia. [...]

January 17, 2013 at 14:08

Malaysia is a beautiful country but not a democratic one. UMNO will hold on to power. For a proper democracy, there should be wide media freedom, freedom of expression for a long time and a multiparty system of governance. Malaysia has none of these.

[...] http://thediplomat.com/2013/01/17/political-jockeying-ahead-of-malaysias-elections/ [...]

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