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IDEAS was accredited by the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to observe the recently concluded 13th General Elections. Our mandate was to observe, record, analyse and report events leading up to GE13, and subsequently recommend ways to improve any weaknesses found. We benchmarked our observation against the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections. We deployed 325 observers to 99 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsula Malaysia and 6 overseas polling centres.

Generally, we found that EC successfully ensured the overall process between nomination day and election day proceeded smoothly without any major glitches. Complaints have been filed about the possibility of phantom voters and the failure of the indelible ink to work as it should. Both are important issues that must be addressed. However, we position these two issues in the context of the wider lack of trust in the integrity of the electoral roll, instead of simply a weakness of the EC. In order to address the root cause of the problem, serious attention must be given to improving the integrity of the electoral roll. This involves improving the integrity of the National Registration Department’s database, which may not be within the EC’s purview.

It is important to examine the events building up to GE13 in order to get a better perspective. Taking a long-term view, we saw that (1) The media was heavily biased in favour of Barisan Nasional. State-funded media platforms have been abused to project partisan views to the public; (2) There were doubts about the EC’s impartiality and competency despite their many efforts to improve the electoral system. They were seen as being part of an already biased civil service. The fact that EC members repeatedly issued statements that could be construed as partisan did not help. Their defensiveness when criticised further angered the public; (3) Trust in the integrity of the electoral roll is low. This resulted in the public being very cautious when there were reports of foreigners being flown in, when they saw foreign-looking individuals, or when the indelible ink was seen as ineffective; (4) The Registrar of Societies did not treat all political parties equally, delaying the registration process of non-BN partie; (5) Constituency sizes are too unequal, allowing parties that win many smaller seats to win parliament, despite not commanding popular support; (6) Financing of political parties is not transparent, resulting in a big lack of clarity about the financial standing of the competing parties; (7) During the campaigning period, government and armed forces facilities were repeatedly used for campaigning purposes during the official campaign period; (8) Racial issues were dangerously exploited for political gains. There were many instances of BN fishing for votes by sowing mistrust between the Chinese and Malay communities.

Therefore, although the official campaign period and electoral processes may have proceeded smoothly and with minimal major issues, wider issues that are not within the EC’s purview have built up over the last few years. These issues conspired against non-BN parties, therefore creating a very uneven field. Due to these reasons, we conclude that GE13 was only partially free and not fair.

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  • mfma 2013 May 08 / 16:21

    Dear IDEAS,

    How about the role of social media? Is there a need to monitor these media too?

    Dissemination of information in social media are too free and the integrity of the information is suspect, to say the least. A lot of people take it at face value and they are rarely substantiated.

  • Nornikman Shah 2013 May 08 / 17:27

    IDEAS, please bring your recorded proof of election offences to Bersih’s People’s Tribunal for Election Petitions to be formally applied. Malaysians need all the help we can get to contest the results of the past GE13. You yourself has stated that the elections were partially free and not fair, so I hope you do help Bersih in this.

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  • 4justice 2013 May 08 / 22:36

    I’m quite perplexed with the think tank’s stand.

    If it was only partially free and not fair,why is it also suggesting for fellow malaysians to accept the results.In true democratic countries, queries of discrepancy and unjustness such as in this country’s election would not have be tolerated.Why is it that malaysians have to stomach this?

    Though,this is a very comprehensive article in whole.Thanks.

  • Richard Teo 2013 Jun 03 / 14:23

    Yes, indeed just keeping to printed media only to conclude that the election is not fair is not correct.

    It should now include the new media of facebook, twitter, youtube etc.

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