From ballots to protests

— Khoo Ying Hooi
The Malaysian Insider
May 14, 2013

MAY 14 — In the immediate aftermath of Malaysia’s closely contested polls on 5 May, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim called on Malaysians to protest the results in what he said as the worst electoral fraud in Malaysian’s history. In the 13th General Election, the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats, its worst showing wins since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. It won 46.8% of all votes for parliamentary seats in an election with a record turnout of almost 85%, compared with 50.3% for Pakatan Rakyat.

Anwar Ibrahim vowed to lead a “fierce movement” to press on electoral reform and challenge the results of the election. He also urged Malaysians to show their resentment over the state of democracy in the country by wearing black every Saturday, in which some term as “democracy blackout”. Since then, several 505 post-election rallies, “Suara Rakyat, Suara Keramat” have been held in different part of Malaysia and it is still ongoing.

Electoral protests are not unusual

In Venezuela for example, the supporters of Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles demanded a recount after a slim electoral defeat to Nicolas Maduro, the late Hugo Chavez’s handpicked successor. Similarly in Malaysia, that was the closest the opposition has come to power in Venezuela since Chavez won his first presidential election in 1998.

In Mexico, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through Zocalo plaza, Mexico City against Enrique Pena Nieto’s presidential win, accusing him and his party, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of widespread vote buying influenced millions of votes in the form of groceries, pre-paid gift cards and other goods to the voters.

The most current example is in Pakistan, supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) protested the just concluded Pakistan election on 11 May against alleged poll rigging.

Ongoing electoral fraud investigations

The investigation team lead by PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli to probe alleged electoral fraud has thus far identified 27 parliamentary seats nationwide for scrutiny, the team along with similar teams from DAP and PAS, also work closely with the people’s tribunal set up by Bersih for similar purpose.

The Election Commission has at the same time also start gathered evidence and set to act against whoever making baseless allegations that had defamed the Election Commission with allegations of electoral fraud.

What’s next?

Social movements and citizens’ contentious collective action has become a prominent feature in Malaysian politics in the past few years. The phenomenon of social movements has been critical for the democratic development in the country but there is however no direct correlation between mass movements and democratic outcomes.

“We will continue this struggle and we will never surrender,” Anwar told his supporters in several rallies. The spirit of rakyat remains high for the post-election rallies, however the question is how successful are the post-election rallies of Anwar Ibrahim? To claim for a victory, there will be a need in which the rallies achieve what they want, be it the re-running of elections, the nullification of the election results and, or resign of the incumbent government.

* Khoo Ying Hooi is a Fellow in the University of Malaya and a PhD candidate in Universiti Putra Malaysia.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 - 9:21 am

    From ballots (in which confidence is lost amongst majority numbers) to rallies/protests and from rallies and protests to what next?

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 - 9:50 am

    Lets no kid ourselves. EVEN IF PR has every detail of every voters and PROOF BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that the election was fraudulent, they won’t step down from power OR redo the election. THAT is UMNO/BN..

    So the real practical use of these protests is to SHAKE the very core of UMNO/BN so that Najib won’t survive or at least badly damaged by the coming UMNO election.

    No one is fooled what the priorities of Najib administration is now – the state MB and exco appts, the cabinet appts, the ranting and blaming rhetorics, etc. – its for winning UMNO election.

    The bigger the crowd and the more damaging it is to Najib ability to convince UMNO members that he can dig them out of trouble and hence the more Najib need to reward warlords and loyal leaders in UMNO to support him..

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