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‘Stolen’ Election, challenged


by Yu-Kyung Lee, Kuala Lumpur(Malaysia), 21 May 2013

A hundred of thousands people around metropolitan area in Malaysia turned out for mega rally in Kelena Jaya Stadium - outskirt of Kuala Lumpur - on May 8. It was a protest over, what they call, ‘stolen election’, which was held on May 5th amidst strong allegations of fraud. Ruling coalition Barisan National (BN, or National Front) led by United Malaysia National Organization (or UMNO) was a main force accused of irregularities. BN nevertheless has become a slim winner securing its reign for over 60 years, while opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR, or People’s Alliance) denounced the result calling it ‘BLACK 505’.

With cheering crowds, many of whom were in black shirts as a sign of ‘demise of democracy’, the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the stage appeared no more gloomy, unlike to when he showed up at midnight press conference on  polling day along with his alliance leadership including his wife and daughter. Contrary to his pre-election assertion to ‘step down’ if opposition fails to win, Anwar by now has been determined to fight against election fraud. In his rather emotional statement next day, he said “we will never surrender”.

Supporters of ruling coalition BN has made noisy drive around oppositions’ campaign site on May 3rd. This has reflected the Malaysia’s 13 general election, which was held on May 5th , was ever closely contested one. (left)/The opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim appeared gloomy and bitter at a midnight press conference on the polling day  as ruling coalition BN was being emerged as winner of election.(right) photos: Yu-Kyung Lee

The May 8th rally was opening up for will-be held protests at different locations coming days, such as in Penang on May 11, Perak on May 12 and Johor Baru on May 16 and so forth. The civil society movement named ‘Bersih’ (or the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections), which de facto rallies behind the opposition for the sake of regime change, has vowed to set up ‘People’s Tribunal’ to probe into election fraud.

The heavily disputed election, thus, is at turning point onto the next stage. The battle is to be either in justice or legal field as well as in ‘stadium’ or even on the street perhaps as ‘Black 505 Protest Tour’ continues.  

“We will never surrender”

According to the result announced by Election Commission (or EC), BN has won 133 seats versus the opposition PR has won 89 seats out of 222 federal parliamentary seats with 84.84 % turn out. BN has lost 7 seats from the previous election in 2008. It has won only 2 of 11 seats in the capital. It is worst ever performance for BN’s ruling history for more than half a century despite the fact that institutions notably EC and mainstream media have functioned in strong favor of BN.  

“Look at my finger. It’s not indelible ink at all. I have voted two and half hours ago. But if I cut nail here, you can’t even see any mark of ink”

On the polling day, a middle-aged woman who wanted to be anonymous other than ‘Ms.Chong’ showed her finger nearby polling station in Lembah Pantai. Lemba Pantai was one of the hotly fought constituencies in the capital, where the opposition leader’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar regained her seat for second term. ‘Indelible’ ink, which was meant to prevent voters from double casting, has been a huge scandal particularly since some advance voters a week ago found that ink was delible. The finding was contradicting to what EC assured ‘7days indelible ink’.

In Lembah Pantai, one of the hotly fought constituencies in Kuala Lumpur, one voter showed her finger as a proof that the ink used in vote was not indelible. photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

Another foul campaign was money politics, which have dominated BN’s camp. Dr. Michael D. Jeyakumar, the winning socialist candidate of PSM for Sungai Siput in Perak state has revealed in his article for FreeMalaysiaToday that house-owners who allowed the BN to tie banners on the fronts or sides of their houses were paid 300 Ringit (approximately 100 USD). There have been ongoing accounts about ‘dinner’ or ‘party’ in Penang, the western state of opposition strong hold, and elsewhere. Malaysian social NGO Aliran has recently revealed that post-election payouts by BN in Penang took place. Little exception was in the capital. To make one quite baffled, it’s plainly practiced again in BN camps.    

“Yes, we got paid. 100 ringgit (35 USD) per day” said one ‘volunteer’ for a BN candidate in Kuala Lumpur in the run-up to the election. “Good money” said other ‘volunteers’. And all agreed on “love our Prime Minister Najib”. But the same candidate has paid a migrant worker half of this amount. The party members called the migrant, who’s from Indonesian, “part time volunteer” with no sign of disgrace at all.   

“I cannot earn 50 ringgit from other job because I can’t speak English” said the 45 year old, who came to Malaysia 5 months ago. “It’s good for me to work here as I can pay my rent, which is 700 ringgit per month” he added.

Malay, Chinese and Indian (Tamil)  together moderated opposition’s rally a day before the polling day. Due to multi ethnicities, racial politics have been always played out although there have been much efforts to extinguish racism or politics on race. photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

As Malaysia is a multi-ethno country, where faces are varied between Chinese, Malay and Indian origins, ‘foreigners’ – often the most vulnerable in the society - from neighboring countries have been exploited by political parties in many respect. There have been ongoing allegations that ruling coalition has transported foreigners into certain constituencies to make them enable to cast a vote for ruling party.  

As a matter of fact, the issue of ‘foreign voters’ has been controversy for long but mainly in Sabah and Sarawak - both Malaysia territory on Borneo Island – due to high presence of Indonesians and Philippines. This time, however, the issue has been spilled over to the Malay Peninsula as well.



“In Malaysia, although naturalized citizens are entitled to have a right to vote, many others were hurriedly issued a temporary IC card to vote for ruling party, and then deprived of the document after sometime” said Ong BK, activist from Malaysian Election Observation Network who monitored election in Sabah. Bersih has highlighted the issue pointing out in its statement on May 3rd,    

“The Election Commission has denied the postal vote to hundreds of thousands of East Malaysians (those who are from Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo Island) working in the peninsula, and even more citizens working in Singapore, is now standing mute as planeloads of people are being flown into the peninsula to vote”. 

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