Thoughts after Malaysia’s General Elections

It has been four months since Malaysians came out in droves to cast their votes during the 13th General Elections. The desire for change was in the air as many were confident that the opposition coalition would replace the current government.

elections-malaysia-democracyAfter being continuously in power since independence in 1957, many felt that the ruling government has lost touch with the average citizen on the street frustrated with corruption, cronyism, selective justice, further erosion of civil liberties; and racial and religious rhetoric by the government or government-linked NGOs.

To my dismay, the ruling government remained in power although with a reduced majority in parliament. After elections it is good to see a leader addressing a nation and urging them to stay united despite the divisions in politics and ideology.

However, Prime Minister Najib Razak sullenly proclaimed that the ruling government’s narrow victory with further losses in some State and Federal seats was attributed to a “Chinese Tsunami” (this election saw a drastic shift of Chinese votes to the Opposition).

To add insult to injury a local Malay daily owned by UMNO (United Malays National Organization) – also the largest party in the ruling coalition – ran a headline with “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?” This translates to “What else do the Chinese want?” and ignores the fact that a large majority of Malays living in urban areas also voted for the opposition.

With a post-election hope that the nation would enter a new phase in our history with better governance, accountability and transparency to more civil liberties, I was left aghast as the ruling government became more arrogant in its stance.

Instead of offering an olive branch as a sign of reconciliation and to unite a nation divided by politics, the government played the racial card and failed to make amends for a better Malaysia.

Civil liberty came under more threat as the authorities cracked down on opposition activists and supporters. Post-election protest erupted against the results, as many felt that the ruling government won via irregularities such as gerrymandering, phantom voters, and postal vote frauds.

A student activist was arrested by the police after he made a remark at a forum stating that “Elections won’t overthrow the government; the people’s power will” and that Malaysians “cannot wait for five years to overthrow UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN).”

At the same time, two politicians and two other activists were also arrested as part of the crackdown. Indeed the zeal in which the authorities clamped down on certain opposition politicians and activists and using the law against protestors prompted one to wonder if this is the death of civil liberty in Malaysia.

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The right of the people to assemble and let their voices heard is one of the fundamental features of a liberal democratic nation. Based on the crackdown on opposition politicians and activists with draconian laws such as the Sedition Act, Malaysia cannot be seen as a liberal democratic nation.

Even though Malaysia maintains a parliamentary system and the people can vote for their representatives, it is not a liberal democratic nation as freedom of speech, press freedom and the freedom to assemble is curtailed under existing laws such as the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984.

Amidst the gloom however, there is still a flicker of hope.

Even though the opposition lost, they managed to gain a few more seats and further erode the ruling government’s majority in Parliament. And with more opposition MPs, the ruling government would no longer enjoy easy passage in making decisions and pass any laws without much opposition.

They would now be more scrutinized and held accountable for every decision and action taken. As long as the banner for freedom, clean and fair elections, eradication of corruption and cronyism and fairness and justice still flies, Malaysians from all walks of life can still pray and hope for a better Malaysia. And yours truly will continue to pray that the day will come when Malaysia will eventually become a liberal democratic nation.

Disclaimer: The author has tried his best to ensure the accuracy of information where facts are concerned. Any mistake is solely to be blamed on the author and his unhealthy sleeping habits.

Josiah Ching is a final year Communications student at Southern New Hampshire University. Prior to his degree, he worked as an IT technician for Computer Sciences Corporation. He has a passion for zoology, history, international relations, politics, literature, dinosaurs and 60s music. An admirer of the classical liberal tradition, he hopes to see Malaysia transformed into a truly liberal democracy. Read other articles by Josiah.