Those who can should turn up to vote.

February 6, 2018

Those who can should turn up to vote.

by Mariam Mokhtar

Image result for mariam mokhtar and mahathir

COMMENT | Even former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who was known for rigging elections, did not have the effrontery to tell his people that there would be no cheating at the polls.

So what does that make our Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak, who said last week, “There is no chance of cheating in GE-14?” To call him a po-faced liar would invite the wrath of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP). Maybe Najib is someone with a healthy ego, and a high opinion of himself, what Donald Trump would call, “A real positive in life”.

Najib was furious with the meddling by European Union (EU) representatives and key figures from Pakatan Harapan. He dismissed concerns about cheating and said, “Our system is now more transparent than it ever has been. We have polling agents, we have counting agents. We have the indelible ink system. There is no chance for cheating.”


Image result for mariam mokhtar and mahathir

The British colonizers taught us a useful trick: to pass laws to make something legal. Najib’s administration has done this, as have previous administrations, before him. The authorities then act in accordance with the law. In other words, the law is used to legalise their actions.

We have legalised corruption, legalised vote-rigging, legalised body snatching, legalised child kidnapping (as in conversion cases), legalised land grabs and legalised pedophilia (child marriages).

The (EC) redraws electoral boundaries and claims that all is above board. We disagree and call this gerrymandering.

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The beautiful supporters of Najib and Rosmah Mansor–Eat More Lemang and stay attractive.

BN stands to gain the most, when 128 of the 222 constituencies are redrawn in the re-delineation exercise, especially in the Opposition-held state of Selangor, the richest state in Malaysia.

In 2013, military personnel cast their votes one week before May 5, the day of the general election. Major Zaidi Ahmad of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), found that the indelible ink used in GE13 washed-off a few hours after he had voted.

As he did not want unscrupulous people to abuse the system and vote multiple times, he lodged a police report about the ink, because he wanted to uphold the constitution.

He was immediately transferred from Butterworth, put on trial on various charges relating to that report, and for sending text messages about the non-indelible ink. He was later discharged.

Members of the security forces have two ICs. One is the normal identity card. The other is especially for police/armed forces personnel. No one will admit that the system is open to abuse.

Some things cannot be legislated, like re-animating the dead. We must be the only nation on earth, where the dearly departed are keen to exercise their voting rights.

Highest numbers of centenarians

Another entry into the Guinness Book of Records shows that we have overtaken Japan, in having the highest numbers of centenarians. It must have something to do with our eating habits. Nasi lemak is good for longevity.

If, in GE14, you suspect that migrant workers who have been given voting rights are bussed into a particular area, ask them to name a landmark or street. If they claim to be local but fail this simple test, chances are they are impersonators. EC officials should be notified, but sometimes they are arrogant and insensitive to voter’s complaints.

Another test is to ask suspicious migrant workers to spell their name. Some fraudulent voters have names which they cannot spell, let alone pronounce. How do you keep a straight face, when the identity card shows a Chinese name but the bearer looks Bangladeshi?

Some banana republics bus in their “additional” voters, but not us. We think “Big” and we do it in style. We prefer to use wide-bodied aircraft. In GE13, there were allegations that migrant voters were flown to East Malaysia to cast their fraudulent votes.

Ageism is a useful EC tool. In GE13, it was alleged that in some towns, voters were separated by age; one queue for the young, the other for older people.

 Older voters tend to support the ruling party.

Younger voters are more inclined towards the opposition, whereas older voters tend to support the ruling party. The “older” queue moved quickly and finished voting within minutes. The queue with younger people crawled along for hours before voters reached the voting booth. People left the queue to eat or have a break. Some never returned.

I could not vote in GE-13 because my name was removed from the electoral roll in Subang Jaya. Those who can should turn up in large numbers to vote. But I am still fighting for change (since 2007).  Due to massive rigging and cheating, I know UMNO-BN will win GE-14, hopefully with a reduced majority in Parliament. If that happens, there will likely be an UMNO coup to remove Najib as Prime Minister. Otherise, Najib will shamelessly cling to power for his own well being. –Din Merican

Many people become disheartened when they find that their names have been removed from the electoral roll, or are registered at a different constituency. Well before the election, they should have checked, to ensure that they are registered to vote and that their details are correct.

Sometimes, it is what you do not see that contributes to cheating. Who would know about the extra voting papers in the boot of an EC official’s car, ready to be swapped with a ballot box of genuine votes? When would the swap take place? During a blackout, of course!

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

February 3, 2018

FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

by FA

COMMENT | “Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”

Image result for Fa AbdulMs. FA Abdul

These were some comments I received from friends when I shared posts about Bersih 2.0 rally on social media a few years ago. Clearly, they did not think much about the movement then, what more of its ability to bring about changes in the government through a peaceful protest.

However, it never stopped the rally organisers form keeping the movement going until Bersih 5 in 2016. At the same time, supporters of the rally continued marching the streets of Malaysia with their yellow spirit intact.

For those who took part in the rallies, their protest meant something. It was beyond their campaign’s objective which was to demand for a clean and fair elections.

Everyone who participated in those rallies had their own reasons for marching on the streets. Some wanted a new government; some wanted racism and bigotry to end; some wanted the corrupt to be prosecuted; some wanted Bangsa Malaysia; yada yada yada.

They all wanted change. However, despite wanting things to change in Malaysia, they were wise enough to know that the changes they desired, was not going to come just rolling to their feet following street protests. They knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Image result for Bersih 4.0Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican joined BERSIH 4.0 in 2015 because they wanted  clean, free and fair elections to elect a government which is competent, accountable and transparent. They supported civil society activists–Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin, and Haris Ibrahim In 2018, Malaysians are being put in a situation of having to choose either Pepsi (UMNO-BN) or Coca Cola (Pakatan Harapan). What would you do?–Din Merican


Yet, they continued taking part in the rally from 2011 to 2016. And some, even began wearing their Bersih yellow T-shirts proudly every Saturday throughout the years.

What were they trying to achieve? Nothing much, really. They just wanted to make a statement – that they were unhappy with the current situation and wanted things to change.

Today, we come across another movement who claim to be unhappy with the current situation and want things to change. Yes, I am talking about the #undirosak movement.

Just like the Bersih supporters were condemned back then, today the #undirosak supporters, too, are condemned using similar words.

“Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”


Oddly, most of those who are throwing this flak are none other than those who used to march the streets of our country proudly clad in their yellow Bersih tees.

Image result for UndiRosak movement

While they believed it was their right to freedom of expression to make a statement (never mind how others perceived it) today they seem to be quick enough to mock and bully others who choose to stand on the same principle.

Why the hypocrisy? Voting is a statement. Be it a cross for BN or a cross for the Opposition. A spoilt vote is also a statement. A stronger one, if I may say so. I may not support the #undirosak movement, but I respect their stand and I acknowledge their statement. I don’t expect others to do the same – but at least respect their right to do so.

Everyone has the right to dissent and protest. Bersih rally supporters had the right back then and the #undirosak supporters should be given their right today.

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Malaysia’s Born Again Democrat and Reformer

After all, what is democracy if not the freedom to protest?

FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert Facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot.

Malaysian Governance: It is a Najib-led ”Malaise System”, not the Malays

January 26, 2018

Malaysian Governance: It is a Najib-led ”Malaise System”, not the Malays

by S Thayaparan@www,

“Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.”

― Bertrand Russell

COMMENT | Malaysiakini columnist Thor Kah Hoong’s ‘It’s a malaise of the system, not Malays’, is a snapshot of what is wrong with the discourse in this country. Thor is a friend and this piece is not a rebuttal or anything like that, but I just feel I have to say a few words.

Image result for The Myth of the Lazy Native

Saying not all Malays are lazy is just as meaningless as saying all Malays are lazy. Why? Because whether Malays are lazy or not is not the issue when it comes to discussing the system.

Let us say that the system of privileges actually benefited the majority of the Malay community. Let us say that Islam was applied “fairly” to all and we were all under the shadow of syariah law. Would this be an acceptable system? Would race relations in this country be better? Would it still matter if a Malay was lazy or not?

Okay, let us say that not all Malays are lazy. Would it make a difference if those not lazy Malays also supported Malay rights and believed that Islam should be imposed on all Malaysians because they believed that Malaysia was an Islamic state?

Image result for Mahathir the malays are lazyReally? It is time to revisit Dr Syed Hussein Alatas’ The Myth of Lazy Native, which is a serious rebuttal of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s The Malay Dilemma.


Is there really a difference between a “lazy” Malay who supports this system and a “not lazy” Malay who believes that the system serves a purpose? People love to talk about corruption as if, if there was no corruption, the system that enables a whole community to believe that they were the “masters” of this land and Islam defines their identity, would be okay. Get rid of MO1 (Malaysian Official 1), and that is the first step.

The first step to what? I made my case for voting and a two-party system, but the reality is that unless we change the system, unless a majority of Malays truly believes that the system is detrimental to all Malaysians, we will never be able to change anything in a meaningful way.

People blame the indoctrination programmes of the Umno establishment for destroying the Malay mind but seem oblivious that the opposition, in its current incarnation, is doing the same thing.

Image result for Rice farming in KedahRice Farming in Kedah–It is back beaking work–Is she lazy?

Some people like to use the lazy Malay/not lazy Malay argument as a means to introduce “class” into the discourse. In other words, the system disenfranchises a large section of the Malay community.

However, what it boils down to is the efficacy of the system and perhaps even utilitarian arguments, instead of the morality of the system. I am sorry it took so long to get here, but the system and the Malay community are not mutually exclusive.

Partisan politics in this country has reached ridiculous levels. There is a right-wing Malay website, which idolises Donald Trump, believes that Najib Razak should not give in to the “left” and quotes Western news sources about the evils of the left, which it equates with the DAP and Malay activists and politicians who do not subscribe to mainstream Malay dogma.

A cursory reading (and fact checking) of some of these sources the website quotes will reveal anti-Islamic writers who would most definitely laugh themselves into a right-wing hysterical fit, if they knew that a so-called right-wing Malay/Muslim site was agreeing with them.

Demonised as ‘liberals’

Never mind that there has always been agitation in the Malay community. However, mainstream Malay power structures post-1969 have done everything in their power to define the narratives in the Malay community. This is why when Malays who want to radically change the system stick their heads out, they are demonised as “liberals” and anti-Muslim.

They are not supported by mainstream Malay power brokers (establishment and opposition) or the mainstream of the Malay community. They are penalised because they are a constant reminder that the system and the Malay community could be mutually exclusive. They understand that beyond corruption and the Arabisation process, the Malay community is the system and this is deleterious for the country and the community.

I have attempted to make this point before. I get that most people are not interested but it is worth repeating – “I do not think that the problems of the Malays are that they are not unified; I think the problem of the Malays is that they have no real choices when it comes to ‘Malay’ leadership. Race and religion are the basis for all ‘Malay’ political parties and Malay politicians are hampered by these two imperatives – or so they say – which makes it impossible to have a greater Malay polity that is progressive and egalitarian.”

Now I know that I am going to get a lot of flak for this but it is true. The ideological and constitutional foundation of mainstream Malay/Malaysian politics is that the system and the Malay community are not mutually exclusive. If you support the opposition or you support the Umno establishment, then you support this narrative. Whether it is true is not the point. The point is that you are voting for political parties that define the system.

This is why a close friend of mine who is a Malay – which is important – told me that despite my exuberance for Harapan – a gross mischaracterisation I would argue – the idea of voting for Harapan is one of diminishing returns. In fact, he always sends me this YouTube video, whenever Harapan plays to script instead of deviating from it.

Now I am not saying that the non-Malays had no part in making this system but as recent events have demonstrated, most of us have very little intention of destroying the current system. Replacing Najib, in case you did not get the memo, is not destroying the system. It merely means we are setting the system back to its default setting.

Maybe this is why so many young people can’t be bothered to vote and many others who do not buy into the apocalyptic fantasies of the opposition can’t wait for this election to be over.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Malaysia: GE-14 Elections could go either way

January 16, 2018

GE-14 Elections could go either way: Kalimullah Hassan, Advisor to former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

by Kalimullah Hassan

This is adapted from a speech by a veteran journalist-turned businessman to a regional forum put on by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore on January 9, 2018. 

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Dato’ Kalimullah Hassan

Malaysia’s next general election must be called by June by a government that over the past five years has been wracked with financial scandals, an inability to curb rising living costs and income inequality and has seemingly lost a clear vision for the future.

After more than a decade of steadily losing its rural lifeline, common sense would dictate that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government faces an uphill task in retaining a comfortable majority. In fact, as an observer of Malaysian politics and having seen the last eight general elections either as a journalist or an insider, this is one election I will not be comfortable in predicting. There are too many new parts to the equation and any prediction would be, at best, an educated guess.

Long, futile wait for political change

However, although Malaysia’s urban and civil society have long rooted for political change, their views have not prevailed over a vast rural electorate – mostly ethnic Malay and Muslim — that traditionally has supported the ruling Barisan Nasional and its leading political party, the United Malays National Organization.

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Still, since the dramatic 2008 general election when the BN lost its two-thirds majority, and 2013 when it actually lost the popular vote but still maintained its grip on power viua gerrymandering and the first-past-the-post system, its share of rural votes has been declining.

The Barisan’s popularity peaked in 1995 with 65 percent of the popular votes, although in 2004 it won 90 percent of the parliamentary seats on 63.9 percent of the popular vote. Since that time, its sway via both the popular vote and parliamentary majorities have been declining. Its worst result was in 2013 when it won 59 percent of the parliamentary seats with only 46 per cent of the popular votes.

Since 1955 and the first general elections in what was then the Federation of Malaya, and since 1963, after the formation of Malaysia, save for a blip in 1969, the rural areas have traditionally been the vote bank for the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor, the Alliance.

Fixed Deposit in the east

And since 1963, the relatively under-developed states of Sabah and Sarawak, which today account for 57 parliamentary seats or about 26 percent of the seats in Parliament – have almost overwhelmingly voted for the BN; so much so that they are referred to as the BN’s fixed deposit.

Similarly, the rural heartland in the Peninsula – where FELDA rural land development schemes account for almost another quarter of the parliamentary seats – have also traditionally supported the BN. But today, save for Sarawak, it appears that it will be down to the wire in the FELDA-seats and in Sabah.

Image result for Naijb Razak praying to God in MeccaWith the outcome of GE-14 uncertain, Najib Razak is praying for God’s Help in Mecca


There is no question that the traditional BN vote bank is hurting. Job opportunities are scarcer, the cost of living has risen, subsidies on many essential items such as petrol have been removed, college education no longer guarantees a good job, the ringgit has weakened against other currencies so much so that even once cheap havens like Thailand and India are now expensive.

Does that mean that the traditional vote bank is going to go against a government beset with corruption scandals and a bungling political leadership? That’s what many of the intellectuals and political pundits want to believe.

Could Go Either Way

But after seeing the Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump, and in the absence of reliable polling, I am not so sure. My gut feel tells me that it could go either way. The trends over the last decade tell me that it could go either way. Anecdotal evidence in my travels through the country tell me it could go either way.

Yet, as all of us know, when you are about to mark the ballot, many other considerations come into play, considerations that do defy logic.

Related image
The Mahathir-led  Opposition Alliance– a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies–is dishing out promises of reform and hope


I take myself as an example. I am a businessman, well-travelled and I think, though some of my friends may dispute that, well-read. In 2013, I resolved that I could not, in all conscience, vote for the Barisan Nasional and I went to vote to fulfil that resolve. Yet, as I looked at the ballot paper, I realized that all my life, I had voted for the Barisan and I was not sure whether if the opposition alliance then won, they could rule any better.

I have been proven right to a certain extent because while the ruling party has continued to disappoint, the opposition alliance – a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies, which a journalist friend of mine once described as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, has broken up with its strongest ally, the theocratic Parti Islam, which is now seemingly supportive of the Barisan Nasional.

But I was already in the booth and I had to vote: I split my vote – for Parliament, I voted the BN candidate whom I believed was sure to lose and for state, I voted the opposition candidate, who I was convinced would definitely win. I appeased my conscience and as so happened, the BN candidate did lose by a huge margin and the opposition candidate did win by a huge margin.

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging

January 11, 2018

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging: What a Democracy

Image result for mahathir and najib

Two of Kind–Teacher and Pupil

In many countries in Southeast Asia, having elections is a meaningless exercise; in the end, the same party always ends up ruling the state.

Malaysia is a prima facie example. The quality of elections in Malaysia has been poor, primarily because of the practices of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Methods such as gerrymandering, misuse of institutional tools, elite cohesion pacts, and malapportionment have been used to retain power in the past – including by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, just tapped by the opposition as their candidate. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at what Malaysian leaders have done to cling on to power in the past, while at the same time degrading the sanctity of elections in the region.

Elections in Malaysia have become a one-sided affair over the years. The BN returned to power for the thirteenth time in 2013, and not solely because of the reforms they have carried out in Malaysia. Scholar Kai Ostwald, in his article “How to Win a Lost Election,” argued that methods such as gerrymandering – the manipulation of district boundaries to advantage one party — have been used by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to win elections. To create an additional district, the approval of two-thirds of the parliament is required and UMNO has always had a majority in parliament; thus from time to time they have redrawn district boundaries in their favor to capture the maximum number of votes, or to defy votes to the opposition. The fact that, as Ostwald points out, there were only 104 districts in Malaysia at the time of independence compared to 222 in 2013 speaks volumes about gerrymandering and the resulting quality of elections.

In his article, Ostwald has further highlighted the use of malapportionment by the Barisan National coalition to gain seats in the parliament. Malapportionment is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to the ruling party’s advantage, wherein the pro-government districts have fewer voters and pro-opposition districts have many more.

Image result for Bersih 5.0

These former UMNO guys want free and fair elections–does it make sense?

Some amount of malapportionment is justifiable to improve the relationship between the representative and its constituents, and to give fair representation to Bumiputra people. But its excessive use by the UMNO has made the people lose faith in free and fair elections and derided the quality of it. In 2013, the use of malapportionment led to the incumbent BN winning 54 percent of parliamentary seats while losing the popular vote by a margin of around 4 percent. Ostwald insists that this has violated the “one-person, one vote” principle, that is fundamental to any democratic institution. Thus it has undermined elections at all levels.

This is made possible by a partisan election commission that has refrained from keeping checks and balances over political parties. The election commission is supposed to act as an ombudsperson, but the fact that the head of state appoints the civil servants makes it a prejudiced body. Such practices have hollowed out the essence of elections in Malaysia. Though elections may have been frequent, they have always been well prepared for in advance by the ruling party.

Ostwald looked at the 2013 elections; Jason Brownlee, in his article “Bound To Rule,” explores former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s practices for dominating both national and inter-party elections in Malaysia. Mahathir faced opposition from some factions of the UMNO in the 1980s. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam, two prominent members of the party, rallied against Mahathir and ran for party president and vice president. To counter this challenge, Mahathir “prevailed by distributing cabinet and party positions to undecided delegation leaders,” according to Brownlee. After he won the elections, however, he got rid of the seven people in his cabinet who were not his supporters.

Image result for tengku razaleigh and musa hitam

Later in the decade, Musa decided to run for reelection against the UMNO and gained ample support from his hometown. If Musa had succeeded, it could have been the biggest challenge to Mahathir’s political career. To counter this, Mahathir invited Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to join his cabinet. “Through the party’s organs, Mahathir had wooed Musa and his partisans back before they could compete separately in the next parliamentary elections,” Brownlee explained. However, Mahathir still faced opposition from Razaleigh and his newly formed alliance. This time in 1990, Mahathir dissolved parliament earlier than expected and shortened the campaign time, which caused serious damage to the opposition.

When the outcome is already apparent, elections hardly hold any value. Leaders in Malaysia have exploited the resources of the party and institutions and have made the most important part of democracies, the election, a secondary process.

Gerrymandering, malapportionment, and the misuse of institutional tools are all methods used by the ruling coalition to manipulate the electoral process. This has directly as well as indirectly degraded the quality of elections and has eroded the faith of scholars in the Malaysian electoral system. With Mahathir as the opposition candidate now, it will be interesting to see if this year’s elections will be fair and square or whether the Najib Razak government will degrade the electoral practice to a new low.

Shrish Srivastava is a freelance foreign affairs writer.

Electoral Integrity: Congrats Malaysia for doing better than Zimbabwe and Afghanistan

December 4, 2017

Electoral Integrity: Congrats Malaysia for doing better than Zimbabwe and Afghanistan

by Looi Sue-Chern

Image result for Electoral Integrity Congrats Malaysia

Kai Ostwald noted former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics. But let us admit that under UMNO Prime Minister Najib Razak, democratic politics since 2009 has become a joke. GE14 is not likely to be better. Levels of malapportionment are now among the highest in the world.–Din Merican

MALAYSIA ranks higher than Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Afghanistan in electoral integrity, but far behind regional neighbours Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, according to an academic paper on elections.

The research paper titled “Malaysia’s Electoral Process: The Methods and Costs of Perpetuating UMNO Rule” assigns a PEI (Global Perceptions of Electoral Integrity) score that measures electoral laws, electoral procedures, district boundaries, voter registration, party registration, media coverage, campaign finance, the voting process, and vote count to capture an electoral system’s degree of manipulation.

Malaysia ranked 142nd out of 158 countries in terms of electoral integrity. Zimbabwe were 143; Vietnam, 147; and Afghanistan, 150.

“Nearly all other countries in this category have experienced deep social and political instability like Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, or have single party system like Vietnam that precludes meaningful electoral competition,” the report said.

“Neither of these is true for Malaysia, making it a clear outlier in the category. Malaysia has a strong and well institutionalised state that has provided relative social stability, a high level of human development, and robust economic development. This developmental success brings Malaysia’s poor electoral integrity into stark contrast and suggests its deficiencies are the result of deliberate manipulations, rather than a by-product of developmental strife.”

Image result for Electoral Integrity Congrats Malaysia

Denmark scored the highest PEI score of 86, while Southeast Asian neighbours Indonesia ranked 68, Myanmar 83, Singapore, 94 and the Philippines 101.

The research paper also found a strong bias in the delineation of electoral boundaries in Malaysia.

“Levels of malapportionment are now among the highest in the world; in fact, the EIP (Electoral Integrity Project) ranks Malaysia’s electoral boundaries as the most biased of the 155 countries assessed,” said the report.

EIP is an independent academic project based at Harvard University and the University of Sydney.

The paper was written this year by University of British Columbia’s Assistant Professor Kai Ostwald from the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs & Department of Political Science.

He uploaded the paper onto the site ResearchGate late last month.

The paper claims to act as a primer on elections in Malaysia by providing a systematic assessment of how the electoral process is strategically manipulated to secure the political dominance of UMNO and its coalition partners in Barisan Nasional.

It looks into the country’s institutional structure, electoral history, and how Malaysia allegedly manipulates its electoral system more significantly than other countries with comparable levels of development and institutionalisation.

Ostwald noted former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure from 1981 to 2003 had a large impact on the country’s political landscape, the independence of key institutions, the economy and the role of money in politics.

The electoral process, he said, was systematically manipulated to bias outcomes meant to keep BN in power.

In the 2013 general election, BN won 83 of the 86 smallest districts, while the opposition – the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat – won a substantial majority of the largest one third of districts.

Despite getting only 47% of the popular vote, BN retained the federal government.

“The opposition in Malaysia is granted enough operating space to contest and win seats at the federal level, and occasionally to form governments at the state level. This does not make elections free and generally fair,” said Ostwald.

He also highlighted the ongoing attempt by the new opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to register as a coalition, and the DAP’s troubles with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) over its central executive committee election.

“RoS, which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has shown pro BN institutional bias. The RoS is responsible for overseeing the registration and operation of societies, including political parties. It has the power to block the formation of new parties or de register parties that do not follow its provisions, which cover a wide range of areas from parties’ internal governance to their names and symbols.”

Other issues Ostwald highlighted included the selective use of the Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma); the widely questioned independence and partiality of the judiciary; control over the mass media through laws and ownership; and restrictions on the new media.