Malaysian election aftermath could bring unrest

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Anwar Ibrahim
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accuses the winning party Barisan Nasional of widespread election fraud

As 4am on May 6 rolled by in Kuala Lumpur, the retention of power by Malaysia’s ruling party Berisan Nasional (BN) became a decidedly black and white picture.

One of the world’s longest ruling parties, at the forefront of politics since Britain granted Malaysia independence 56 years ago, BN nonetheless faced one of its greatest electoral battles, claiming only a simple majority in parliament and falling short of two-thirds majority.

While the beleaguered incumbents’ win came as no grand surprise to many Malaysians, an air of uncertainty now permeates the country. In the twilight hours of May 6, the corks of exuberance undoubtedly popping in BN headquarters were being similarly met with concerns that an iteration of status quo could be followed by civil unrest.

That Malay backers of BN turned their political colours in record numbers this time around shows that the disaffected Chinese and Indian minorities, mostly in the urban centers of Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, have gathered support for their party line, focused on tackling corruption and race-based policies associated with BN, a party critics believe has become drunk with power.

Malaysia is, after all, no stranger to ethnic and political unrest – themes as often conjoined as Siamese twins. The eruption of violence that emerged from race riots in 1969 is one potent example, one which still lingers in the minds of Malaysians, both young and old.

Bersih, an activist group whose name means “clean” in Bahasa Malayu, has held three large demonstrations over the past years calling for cleaner elections, inevitably ended by riot police raining down tear gas on the gathered crowds.

This morning’s result will continue to incense this group and others like it. Numerous instances of electoral fraud were accounted during May 5’s polling session. Among the most glaring, opposition party leader Anwar Ibrahim has claimed that 40,000 voters were flown in by the incumbent party to vote in the historically close race. Among the stories that surfaced during the election day, Indonesians and Thais with dual citizenship were allegedly caught casting their votes in contentious states where they were registered.

“Phantom voters witnessed in my own constituency as well as around the country. Not limited to few areas,” Ibrahim said on his Twitter account around 1am.

Before that, he reported that phone lines had gone down in the Pakatan Rakyat campaign headquarters, calling the situation “amazing.”

Among the other “fishy” incidents, reports also surfaced that in some cases the indelible ink used to mark voters who had already cast their votes was fading.

BN has publicly stated that flying in voters is an acceptable practice in their view, one that meshes well with their culture of cash handouts, a controversial practice worldwide that still plays an unashamed role in Malaysian politics.

Ibrahim has confronted the conclusion of the race by asking his supporters to wear the colour black, as if to mourn democracy. At this point, one has to ask: Did it ever exist?

Standing by solid economic growth, Prime Minister Najib Adbul Tun Razak has asked that the opposition party respect the legitimacy of the election results and work towards “reconciliation.”

Najib’s party has doled out an estimated $2.6 billion in social welfare handouts to poor families, and engendered a climate that makes investors quite cozy with the current business community. This was further painted out today when the country bourse experienced one of its strongest openings, despite analysts’ previously bearish predictions.

Many Malaysians have experienced a significant improvement in the quality of life during BN’s long reign, especially in the state of Sarawak, where the party derives staunch support.

The Malaysian economy provides jobs, has low inequality and per capita GDP has made strides in most states.

An unparalleled 80 per cent of Malaysians may have cast their vote in this election. How many will mourn the death of a political alternative yet unknown to the terrain enough to take to the streets is still a disquieting thought, no matter how secure Malaysia Inc’s position is.

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accuses the winning party Barisan Nasional of widespread election fraud

As 4am on May 6 rolled by in Kuala Lumpur, the retention of power by Malaysia’s ruling party Berisan Nasional (BN) became a decidedly black and white picture.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Anwar Ibrahim
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accuses the winning party Barisan Nasional of widespread election fraud

As 4am on May 6 rolled by in Kuala Lumpur, the retention of power by Malaysia’s ruling party Berisan Nasional (BN) became a decidedly black and white picture.

One of the world’s longest ruling parties, at the forefront of politics since Britain granted Malaysia independence 56 years ago, BN nonetheless faced one of its greatest electoral battles, claiming only a simple majority in parliament and falling short of two-thirds majority.

While the beleaguered incumbents’ win came as no grand surprise to many Malaysians, an air of uncertainty now permeates the country. In the twilight hours of May 6, the corks of exuberance undoubtedly popping in BN headquarters were being similarly met with concerns that an iteration of status quo could be followed by civil unrest.

That Malay backers of BN turned their political colours in record numbers this time around shows that the disaffected Chinese and Indian minorities, mostly in the urban centers of Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, have gathered support for their party line, focused on tackling corruption and race-based policies associated with BN, a party critics believe has become drunk with power.

Malaysia is, after all, no stranger to ethnic and political unrest – themes as often conjoined as Siamese twins. The eruption of violence that emerged from race riots in 1969 is one potent example, one which still lingers in the minds of Malaysians, both young and old.

Bersih, an activist group whose name means “clean” in Bahasa Malayu, has held three large demonstrations over the past years calling for cleaner elections, inevitably ended by riot police raining down tear gas on the gathered crowds.

This morning’s result will continue to incense this group and others like it. Numerous instances of electoral fraud were accounted during May 5’s polling session. Among the most glaring, opposition party leader Anwar Ibrahim has claimed that 40,000 voters were flown in by the incumbent party to vote in the historically close race. Among the stories that surfaced during the election day, Indonesians and Thais with dual citizenship were allegedly caught casting their votes in contentious states where they were registered.

“Phantom voters witnessed in my own constituency as well as around the country. Not limited to few areas,” Ibrahim said on his Twitter account around 1am.

Before that, he reported that phone lines had gone down in the Pakatan Rakyat campaign headquarters, calling the situation “amazing.”

Among the other “fishy” incidents, reports also surfaced that in some cases the indelible ink used to mark voters who had already cast their votes was fading.

BN has publicly stated that flying in voters is an acceptable practice in their view, one that meshes well with their culture of cash handouts, a controversial practice worldwide that still plays an unashamed role in Malaysian politics.

Ibrahim has confronted the conclusion of the race by asking his supporters to wear the colour black, as if to mourn democracy. At this point, one has to ask: Did it ever exist?

Standing by solid economic growth, Prime Minister Najib Adbul Tun Razak has asked that the opposition party respect the legitimacy of the election results and work towards “reconciliation.”

Najib’s party has doled out an estimated $2.6 billion in social welfare handouts to poor families, and engendered a climate that makes investors quite cozy with the current business community. This was further painted out today when the country bourse experienced one of its strongest openings, despite analysts’ previously bearish predictions.

Many Malaysians have experienced a significant improvement in the quality of life during BN’s long reign, especially in the state of Sarawak, where the party derives staunch support.

The Malaysian economy provides jobs, has low inequality and per capita GDP has made strides in most states.

An unparalleled 80 per cent of Malaysians may have cast their vote in this election. How many will mourn the death of a political alternative yet unknown to the terrain enough to take to the streets is still a disquieting thought, no matter how secure Malaysia Inc’s position is.

 

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