Disturbing Questions surrounding GE13 polling

May 7, 2013

Disturbing Questions surrounding GE13 polling

by Bridget Welsh@http://www.malaysiakini.com


GE13 SPECIAL: The GE13 results are in and the BN has managed to hold only power, winning by a 22-seat majority. This result is the worst performance for BN in Malaysia’s history.

For the first time, the incumbent government has lost the popular vote nationally (in 2008, it was only on the peninsula). The BN coalition has still managed to hold onto power. This piece, in a series analysing the election results, looks at the concerns raised regarding the electoral process and the potential impact these issues may have had on the final results.


In analysing the fairness of any polls, one asks whether the irregularities in the process could have affected the final outcome. Were the problems enough to change which coalition would have formed government? These issues will be debated and assessed in the days and weeks ahead. Let me share some preliminary observations that suggest that in this election, some things appear not to be quite right.

Integrity of electoral roll

This was the longest wait for an election, and both sides were extremely active in registering new voters, especially in the urban areas where the party machinery was well honed.

Even factoring in the more robust voter registration efforts, changes in electoral procedures to register people where they live rather than where they are from, population demographics, and possible housing developments in different seats, the increased numbers in the electoral roll are significantly not in line with historical patterns of voter registration. This out-of-line pattern is in every state, except Negeri Sembilan.

The figure that stands out in voter increase occurred from 2004 to 2008 in Sabah. The questions about the electoral roll in Sabah have been long standing, and are the subject of the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Immigrants.

These increases from 2004 through 2008 are by any measure – huge – in places such as Liburan, where caretaker Chief Minister Musa Aman state seat is located, in Semporna, the seat of Shafie Apdal and in Ranau currently held by Ewok Ebin.

Yet, after 2008, while the numbers have dropped, there is still on average 21% new voters in Sabah seats, a high number not in line with demographic trends. Migration appears to continue be a factor shaping voter numbers in Sabah in this GE13, despite calls to tighten the flows.

We also find that new voters have flooded states like Selangor, Pahang, Terengganu and Johor in GE13. The average increase in voters nationally between 2004 and 2008 was 8.2%. In the run-up to GE13, the voters registered doubled to 19.4%. The national and statewide averages however obscure the differences among different seats within states. It is clear that some seats have been special recipients of new voters.

Much has been made of the 28% of new voters in Lembah Pantai. This seat is actually on the low side compared to others. Consider the whopping 61.5% increase in Tapah, recently re-won by BN, or Subang with 52% new voters, won by Pakatan with a larger majority this election but shaped heavily by Pakatan’s registration of new voters.

A total of 90 seats, or 41% of all parliamentary seats, have more than 25% new voters. Many of these were in races with tight contests in 2008, and continued to have tight contests in GE13. The new voters has advantaged the opposition in urban areas, but benefitted the BN in rural and semi-rural areas or in states where the machinery of the opposition is comparatively weak, such as Johor.

Such races also won by BN that had large number of voters include Cameron Highlands (20%), Pasir Gudang (39%) and Tebrau (45%) in Johor. While some of the increase in the latter two seats might be explained in part by development, bizarrely there are sharp increases in voting populations in the remote interior state of Pensiangan (33%) and remote coastal seat of Kota Marudu (32%) in Sabah. These abnormal high increases raise questions.

The placement of new voters is even more intriguing when studying the actual polling stations results. Many new voters are concentrated in more less populated areas within constituencies, often in rural and semi-rural seats.


This is where the questions over the large number of unexplained voters grouped in bunches in places like Bachok (21% new voters and won by PAS with less than 1% margin) and Bukit Gantang (29% of new voters and won by PAS with 2% margin) come in.

It appears that the localised remote placements of new voters may have had an impact. For example, the placement of 3,600 new voters in a remote Felda schemes occurred in Segamat, which was won by the BN with a 1,217 majority. The voting in this Felda scheme was over 90%, with one stream at 99%. In 2004, the voter turnout in this area was much lower.

This spike pattern of voter turnout in particular polling stations was found in Terengganu in 2004, when the BN wrested back the state, and questions were raised at that time as well.

Spike patterns out of line

This GE13 spike in voter turnout at the local level is being witnessed in specific places across the country. With the national level of turnout at 80%, the spike patterns that are well out of line with historic patterns of voting behaviour raise questions, even accounting for the overall rise in participation and voter turnout.

Another pattern in the placement of new voters beyond tight races involves prominent leaders getting large shares of new voters, such as Najib Razak’s own seat Pekan with 38% new voters, or Rompin represented by Jamaluddin Jarjis at 29% new voters. It remains unclear why these largely rural constituencies would have such large voter increases.

Generally out-migration areas such as Perak and Pahang receiving large numbers of new voters does not conform with population patterns. Why are places with people leaving to work outside get sharp increases in voters?

The lack of clear transparent explanations on why voters are registered in some areas in such high numbers this election, compared to past patterns in these areas, understandably raises questions.

Many seats that were lost by the opposition or were in tight races have large number of new voters, including, including Tanah Merah (24%) and Balik Pulau (25%), although in some cases the opposition picked up or retained seats with large voter increases in these seats, such as Kota Raja (47%) and Kuala Nerus (25%), among others.

This issue of voter registration and voter turnout levels needs further study, with more information on who are these new voters and their pattern of voting. The fact is that the polling station results will show the spikes at the local level and careful study will tell us statistically the impact of these new voters on electoral outcomes.

The Electoral Commission (EC) and electoral administration as a whole are facing a real trust deficit. A reliable electoral roll is essential for any fair elections. Repeatedly questions have been raised about the veracity of many new voters.

Election watchdog Merap and others have time and again drawn to the questions of electoral roll integrity. Before the polls, these matters were essentially ignored or dismissed. To date, the scope of phantom voters and questionable placement was not fully known. Now the results themselves will show the impact at the local level.

This is why the sharing of all results through the Borang 14 is essential in order to make a systematic and thorough assessment. Preliminary reviews of results are already raising red flags as they have shaped the outcomes at both the parliamentary and state levels.

Early and postal voting


Queries about the early and postal voting have also emerged. Here the question is about double voting, with individuals having the opportunity to vote twice. Postal voting numbers increased in this election. Historically, there have always been questions about the veracity of postal voting, with reports questioning that this voting is secret and others arguing over the accuracy of the results.

There have been improvements in recent years over postal voting involving polling agent access to this process in many locations. Yet, even with these improvements, questions about whether postal voting is fair and accurate remain.

In this election, further questions emerged over the numbers and placement of these postal voters in different constituencies. Many tight races, such as Sibu, had increases in postal voters. In some cases, the list of names of new postal voters were reportedly not provided openly.

Early voting, an estimated 240,000 people, is also a new addition for this election and being queried. Early voting includes many Malaysians within Malaysia, such as the wives of army officers and journalists who can vote before polls.

There was not a clear distribution of the list of early voters provided nationally, and in some cases even individual candidates were not able to access the names of who were the postal and early voters.

No clear explanation was given to why some constituencies received early voters and others did not. Importantly, this information was not properly shared so that it could be verified. Furthermore, there were unexplained instances when the numbers of early and postal voters increased. In Lembai Pantai, for example, the number stated was 200, but 600 showed up. How did this happen?

Given the reality that the indelible ink was in many cases not indelible, the possibility of double voting exists. On voting day there are numerous reports of individuals finding out that someone had voted fraudulently using their name, leading to concerns also about electoral disenfranchisement.

The indelible ink was in many cases not indelible.

The indelible ink was in many cases not indelible.

There were also reports of non-Malaysians being transported to the polling stations by buses and even flown in, some of these believed to be phantom voters. The scale and impact of these on the results is not yet clear, but given the combination of a non-transparent early and postal voting process in various locations and non-indelible ink issues on election day, and sightings of non-Malaysians in contentious seats, troubling questions are being raised.

The close results make these issues and questions more salient. A total of 72 of seats (or 32%) were won by less than 10% margins of turnout. Twenty percent of seats, 44 seats, were won with less than a 5% margin. The closeness of these races could easily have come down to a few voters. These razor-thin margin seats were won by both sides, but given the questions raised about the process of voting in these close seats, they need to be carefully reviewed.

To date, the total number of seats affected by either non-transparent new voter increases and early voting allocations and unexplained incidents of disenfranchisement appears to be more than the actual margin of victory for the BN. These reports need to be properly vetted and verified, but fundamental questions remained.

A spoilt-vote victory

Finally, this brings up the questions on the election night itself. There are queries surrounding the recounts and spoilt votes. How many recounts which overturned the results at the last moment were there? In Perak, for example, three state seats – three is a famous number in Perak – Alor Pongsu, Manjoi and Pangkor results were overturned at the last minute. Questions were also raised at Kamunting as well.

The need for transparency at the final count is essential for a fair election. When the EC asks people to leave and there are new ballot boxes seen outside of a polling station, as was reported in Lembah Pantai, there are questions. It is not fully clear what exactly happened with the recounts in Perak and elsewhere – as there were numerous recounts nationally this election – but the climate of distrust that has permeated the assessment of the election process raises doubts.


In the days ahead, a better sense of the numbers and recounts will emerge. With reports of sudden changes in the voting results such as Bentong and Labis, questions are being raised. Many people cannot understand how a result that was statistically a large margin ahead could be overturned. These need to be clarified, particularly in Bentong where the margin was larger.

Part of the problem is that in some cases, the number of spoilt votes exceeded the actual majority in places where recounts took place. Here are some of the seats at the parliamentary level where this happened: Kuala Selangor, Cameron Highlands, Bachok, Bentong, Sungai Besar, Kota Merudu and Baram won by the BN and Sepang and Kuala Nerus won by the opposition. Another seat with high spoilt votes is Segamat, at 950.

What distinguishes these close recounts from the famous cases of Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh losing in 1999 with more spoilt votes than the majority, is the process of the administration of the indelible ink in this election – before marking the ballot paper – thus staining the papers and contributing to higher spoilt votes.

This pattern of higher spoilt votes than actual margins of victory was also replicated at the state level as well in many areas, where only a few seats mattered for who should win state power. The process of administering the ink appears to have had an impact on the results in some areas.

It is important to be careful when reviewing the election results and not rush to judgement about what happened and why. It is also important to see the election holistically. The focus here has not touched on the use of money in the campaign, which was rampant, labeled ‘bombing’ in Sabah, or the mainstream media reporting.

The aim has been to raise the preliminary questions revealed in the results and the impact actual numbers of voters associated with the election. As the evaluation of the election moves forward, the call to answer these questions will only increase and intensify. Further study and analysis is essential.

Nevertheless, from the non-indelible ink and spikes in voter turnout to being not allowed to vote, concerns with the electoral process itself are not sitting right with many in the public, and this is not just supporters on one side or another. Transparent and truthful answers are both needed and welcomed.

DR BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She is travelling around Malaysia to provide her GE13 analyses exclusively to Malaysiakini. Bridget can be reached at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

15 thoughts on “Disturbing Questions surrounding GE13 polling

  1. “Apa lagi CIna mahu?” screams Utusan’s headlines! This is not per se seditious. I’m sorry to say.

  2. Most Malaysians perceive and believe that there was no way that BN could have won GE13 if the election was not rigged. However, there is nothing much we can really do except to work harder for the next election, unless there is overwhelming ground movement to invalidate GE13. Yang Berhormat Saudara Anwar and his team has done more for us than we can expect, and it is our very own fault for not being able to convince other Malaysians of their duty to ensure a clean and fair government that is dedicated to improving the welfare of the common people. Look at China, the drive against corruption has the entire population uplifted, knowing that their welfare of the people comes first. Over there, public officials are even scared to be seen in restaurants, resulting in the closing down of many upscale restaurants. Elected officials in China now wears the cheapest watch even a cheap GUCCi will get them in trouble. On the other hand, our first lady is wearing pateks, audemars and most recently a white gold hublot. BN has a lot to learn about good governance and it is really our own fault for allowing the crime syndicate to continue. In another five years, our Treasury will be cleaned out, and if the race baiting continues, there will more divisiveness to further cloud the prosperity of our country.

  3. I wish Bersih would invite a Rich Foreign independent group , to also hear tribunal, former judges etc, to ensure this is tried in a Independent commisson format. The findings needs to be put in to everyday plain language and put up clearly everywhere, and if found irregullar then put forth to fore always , get invite the other side for Public Q& A Sessions , in every state, across. Get plain Makcik pakcik type to ask and display answers, naming and shaming will surely put some tension, and usually give more opportunities for other systematic action.

  4. Ballot boxes shld be locked with 2 keys, one held by BN and the other by PR. Every box shld be opened in the presence of reps from both coalitions, and counted in situ. Once counting is completed, both parties sign on document, countersigned by EC rep. The outside of the box shld be marked indelibly to signify its contents had been counted. Immediately Opposition Rep notify the rest of us + media of the results. Then BN cannot thru its msm, report a different count. If u allow EC to fly the boxes out, anything can happen in midair. As far as we can deduce, EC is untrustworthy and one cannot take ‘their word’ at face value. EC’s every move shld be scrutinised so closely to the point of paranoia. As for postal votes, the list of voters shld be made available to PR & reps fr both sides shld be present when voting process is in progress. With a little tweak, the noose is tightened to the extent it’s impossible for any to cheat. But of course, none of the above will happen bcos EC is totally controlled by BN, it is not independent and will never be. Come GE14, PR won’t win even if it garners 60% popular vote. Like the late George Carlin once said, the table is tilted, the game is rigged, you will NEVER WIN. And I believe that is what will happen in 2018. So don’t expect anything, be contented with what you got (don’t compare with the kutty’s billions), because CONTROL is in the other fler’s hands, and money can do anything. If u have 100 or 200 billions, you can decide who governs. All the 100k ceramahs in the world won’t make a damn difference.

  5. ‘Apa lagi umno, octo dan saravanan mahu?’
    Surely this also not seditious. It’s the standard answer many of my Chinapek friends ask, in response to Utusan’s provocation.

    Didn’t i tell you there is a huge problem with Jib’s Image among the Chinapek? It was made worse by his insistence of applying pork-barreling, bribery and ‘Lu Tolong-isms’. When the Chinese say a debt of gratitude – or ‘Kum-Cheng’ – they mean a whole plethora of reciprocal relationships with kinship ties of dependency, protection, obligation and privilege. They don’t just mean servitude and patronage. They could see through his thin veil of deception, corruption and deceit.

    They were right. Chinese Tsunami? Bah..! Only in 1Wet-Dreams.

    The Chinese, being the chauvinistic moralist they are – always pretend to be above corruption, but will willingly take part in it smooth their journey through life. But woe behold, if you dare insinuate that they can be ‘bought’. Jibs remains a novice in political and anthropological science.

  6. However, blogger Papagomo’s comments were clearly meant to incite racial hatred and he ought to be thrown in jail for the comments he made. I don’t remember giving him permission to speak on my behalf.


  8. There is a rise in extreme views in Facebook by a classmate from secondary school years. It never occur to me that he can carry such thoughts within him.

    Why so? Share out of Papagomo without any statement of rejection, another post about Chinese and Indians should not have vernacular school but only national school to end racism and previously, photo session with Dr M. There a few other likes and sharing about such views that were posted these past two days.

    We were from the same residential school and he now had his own business supplying to the government. The candidate from UMNO that he involved in one of the Parliamentary seat had lost and it was a major casualty for UMNO in one of the state.

    And here there is a rise in extreme comments in Utusan, from Najib himself, Ali Rustam, Papagomo, another is a facebook user (forgot his name already), and many comments in FB that are really narrow in focus and thoughts. A kind of closure of the rational mind and surfacing of irrationality.

    It seems that there is a conscious move to place Chinese as scapegoat for the poor results. A lie told often enough become truth.

    The problem now is the state instrument, The Royal Police of Malaysia, is clearly now a tool of bigotry and the fear of being the very tool for mischief of the most extreme degree. There is a great doubt that this state instrument can be impartial protector of public order and safety.

    Does no one care that life is precious? Have such level of monstrosity penetrated the mind and soul of, as always, a small group of people? To rule and to perpetuate power at all cost? Is it a kind of tyranny of will on others no what the results?

    This is fear-mongering at the most extreme. I can only my prayer for such people. That may the Holy God who created all be gracious to such people so as to open their heart and mind to what is good and right. That might and violence be returned with love unconditional. May my Lord Jesus who is now above all names, give them his everlasting love and grace, so that they may come to know what is good and right.

    Dear Din, I hope the Rulers Conference can take note and put an end to this diabolical plan through their office for the good of the country.

    By ethnicity, I am a Chinese. By birth, I am a Malaysian. By right, I am a pilgrim in this world that God put in for the glory of His Name.

  9. Cheating, in any form, even though the government has shown to allow that in certain cases especially when it involves certain personalities, is generally not tolerated by the people. Candidates who had reputations for cheating all lost in their bid for a seat in the recently concluded GE 13. We also noticed that some who were involved in scandals did not contest at the last GE in spite of them holding high positions in their respective parties.

    When we read reports that come from other countries about politicians and leaders who resigned, were asked to resign or were sacked because of their involvements in various types of scandals, some involving a large sum of money, or having spouses or relatives who were involved in scandals or gross misbehaviour, many of us are surprised when actions are not taken against local politicians and leaders, in spite of the clear evidence that they were involved in scandals, some involving a large sum of money.

    Since the government had in many cases did not show enough courage to act against those people, they were left to the pleasure of the people to act and the people have acted. The people obviously do not tolerate such nonsense and at the last GE 13 they have become the judge, jury and the executioner by making sure that they all lost.

    Likewise, candidates who have irritated the people, those who were considered to be bigots, those who were seen to be right-wing extremists or even those who were seen to be right leaning in supporting openly race based politics, those who openly supported the communists and had angered members of the Armed Forces and the Police including the veterans, those who steadfastly held to unpopular policies, sycophants, opportunists, those who were seen to be greedy and whom we, the people, were not clear about their loyalty, from both sides of the divide, over-confident candidates, all lost.

    It is scary to think that the types of people described above, especially those from the ruling coalition, who have the potential of becoming a minister, had won and became a minister.

    Looking at the brighter side, it’s a good sign that the people have rejected dishonesty, extremism and all right wing and right leaning candidates from BN (Barisan Nasional) and the opposition parties have been sidelined. The people are after good practices and the government should take heed of this. Now we can expect BN to rule in moderation and PR (PAKATAN RAKYAT) to provide a strong opposition in Parliament and this should be good for all.

    We hope, BN will not repeat past mistakes that have created unnecessary shame and obstacles in our country’s efforts to achieve greater development and progress.

    Corruption, nepotism, cronyism, favouritism and pleasing demanding spouses and relatives must stop immediately. The government must be seen to be more professional and fair when handling tenders for large scale projects that involve billions of RM of the taxpayers’ money. The government also must be seen to practise meritocracy in its real sense as soon as possible. Policies, such as the Revised National Education Policy 2013 – 2025, which have been proven to be unpopular with the majority, must be re-looked, and to change the policy and the system for a better one immediately to suit all Malaysians

    BN has recorded its worst performance in the last GE 13. Soon, maybe in at the next GE, the increase will be big enough for the opposition to topple them unless of course if BN does something drastic and put in place all the demands the people have made for the past several years.

    We’ll see what happens this next five years; if the people are happy with the ruling coalition’s performance, the country’s progress is good and it benefits the people and not just a select group of people, they will win again in the GE 14.

  10. Every paragraph in Dr Welsh’s article raises good grounds for serious questioning of the conduct and integrity of GE13 – very much striking a chord with the exasperations of every outraged Malaysians.

    But it is almost predictable that more of the same stony elegant silence on thick-skinned faces will greet all these analyses and noises of disenfranchisement. After all, in their minds, the world’s best democracy has afforded its citizens(?) their constitutional right to vote once every 5 years.

  11. Bean, Papagomo should have been thrown in jail a long, long time ago. Not for being seditious alone but also for the stupidity of his articles. You’ll drop few IQ pts just by reading his writings.

  12. Ms Bridget, an excellent analysis of the voting turnouts.

    I am little confused on the term Popular Votes. Our election is not based on a system which is in the US where the final matter that counts is the electoral vote or as I understood as popular vote .

    Sometimes thinking (analyzing) differently gives a perspective that has not been considered by other smart people which is good, but if the results of thinking are so tangential and divergent that then they are not a perspective but something deceptive.

    Simple thinking by simple people are sometimes different and can mislead the readers. Kindly provide a simple answer to those simple people so they not be led astray.

    Kindly explain how the Popular Votes as shown in your first table were computed.
    Go to spr website site and get the details. –Din Merican

  13. Hm…at times a simple explanation exudes little or no value to those who wish to not comphend. Even the simple mechanism involving the matter between their auditory tools fails them.

    Simply translated: buta hati

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