Saturday, July 2, 2011

BERSIH | Weaknesses that jeopardise Malaysia democracy

  1. “…All mainstream media are directly controlled by either the government, such as Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM), or by companies that have a close link with the BN’s top leadership, such as Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, TV3, and Ntv7. Their relationships with leadership make them favourable to the ruling BN…” - Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani (2009) ‘The Emergence of new politics in Malaysia – from consociational to deliberative democracy.’ Taiwan Journal of Democracy, Vol. 5, No. 2: 97-125
  2. “…We have demonstrated how the Barisan Nasional has managed to perpetuate its rule through various forms of electoral manipulation and administrative repressions. On one hand, its initial electoral strengths have been entrenched through control of franchise, alternation of international and administrative boundaries, malapportionment and gerrymandering of electoral constituencies, controlled electoral campaigns and polling irregularities. On the other hand, political opposition is disempowered with infringement of civil and political liberties, extensive patronage networks and abuse of federal apparatus to suppress intergovernmental competition. The opposition state governments are discriminated against and in some cases overthrown through direct federal intervention, while the local elections which the ruling coalition had largely failed to win were outright terminated since 1965…” - Wong, Chin-Huat, Chin, James and Othman, Norani (2010), ‘Malaysia – towards a topology of an electoral one-party state’, Democratization, 17: 5, 920- 949
  3. “…Malaysia has institutionalised a semi-democratic political system. It does engage in elections, which provide for free choices, and the opposition has won seats. Yet the contest is not a fair one, given state dominance of the media, bias in government funding toward the incumbent BN, continuing electoral irregularities, and constituencies that are constructed to favour BN…” - Welsh, Bridget (2007) ‘Malaysia at 50: Midlife Crisis Ahead?’ Current History pp.106, 699
  4. “…In Malaysia, elections are not fair since basic political rights and civil liberties are restricted. Limitations to press freedom and to the right to associate and assemble, malapportionment, gerrymandering, and the financial advantages of the ruling parties are testimony to the systematic violation of fairness principles…” - Ufen, Andreas (2009)
  5. ‘The transformation of political party opposition in Malaysia and its implications for the electoral authoritarian regime’. - Democratization, 16:3, 604-627
  6. “..On average in eleven general elections in Malaysia, the opposition wins 45 percent of the votes, but due to the limits on the opposition within the electoral system, through gerrymandering, malapportionment and the impact of a first-past-the post system, and constraints on political organization for the opposition, holds less than 15 percent of the seats in parliament. In the 2004 election the BN won 63.4 percent of the popular vote, but won 91 percent of the overall seats…” - Welsh, Bridget, Suffian, Ibrahim & Aeria, Andrew (2007) ‘Malaysia country report.’ Asian Barometer
  7. “The Malaysian electoral system . . . [has been] so heavily loaded in favour of the government that it is hard to imagine that [it] . . . could be defeated in an election.” - Crouch, Harold (1996) Malaysian Government: Authoritarian Repression and Democratic Responsiveness. Ithaca: Cornell University Press
  8. “…Further, these iterative electoral victories have extended some legitimating cover for the government’s often sly legislation, habitual amendments to the constitution, manipulation of standing orders and question time, and elevation of loyalists to the largely ceremonial upper house. In sum, while the government can claim that Malaysia holds the longest unbroken record of elections in the region, it has not been established competitively. As Tun Razak noted in 1971: “So long as the form is preserved, the substance can be changed to suit conditions of a particular country…” - Case, William (1996) ‘Can the “Halfway House’ stand? Semi-democracy and elite theory in three Southeast Asian countries’. Comparative Politics, Vol. 28, No.4, pp.437-464
  9. “…Thus, the electoral system contained built-in advantages for the Malay community. There was no realistic possibility of a non-bumiputra party’s or coalition’s “going it alone” and winning an election. The only way for Chinese and Indian politicians to participate in government was by allying themselves with Malays, inevitably as junior partners. In practice, only two types of government could emerge from elections: an all-Malay government or a Malay dominated coalition…” - Crouch, Harold (1996) Government and Society in Malaysia. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin Australia
  10. “…A further package of factors working in Umno’s favour included an electoral redistribution, changes to electoral laws, and a ‘cleansing’ of the electoral roll. An electoral redistribution carried out by the Election Commission (EC) added 26 seats to parliament, most in areas favourable to Umno in the south (Johor from 20 to 26, Selangor 17 to 22), and Sabah (20 to 25). The northern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah had no additions. Furthermore, several seats in Kedah won by PAS in 1999 were reorganised with a higher proportion of non-Malay voters, making a repeat PAS victory unlikely.
  11. “…Traditionally, not issues but the ‘three Ms’ – media, money and machinery – are the key determinants of Malaysian elections. (It used to be the ‘four Ms’, before Mahathir retired.) The BN controls all television and radio stations, and all major newspapers, either through its control of government or party ownership. It uses this control to sell the virtues of the BN, and denigrate the opposition. An independent voice does exist in the form of the online newspaper Malaysiakini. Some opposition parties and NGOs also have their own publications on the internet and/or in hard copy. But such publications cannot reach a large audience.
  12. “…The most controversial aspect of the 2004 election campaign was its management by the EC. The elections were the most disorganised and contested ever. In some cases this may simply have reflected incompetence, but EC activities frequently provided direct benefits to the BN, as they had in the revisions of electoral boundaries and membership of the electoral roll.

    In the face of very broad concern over EC activities its chairman proposed an independent inquiry into EC conduct. Prime Minister Abdullah quickly rejected this, telling the EC to conduct its own internal inquiry…” - Funston, J. (2006) ‘The Malay Electorate in 2004: Reversing the 1999 Result?’, in Saw Swee-Hock and K. Kesavapany (ed.), Malaysia: Recent Trends and Challenges, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, p. 313

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