Malaysians cast their ballots in the most important election in the nation’s history on Sunday. On Election Day, as had been predicted by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, reports of electoral fraud were widespread. Although the Prime Minister Najib Razak had just a few days earlier given his categorical assurance that the election would be clean, a mountain of evidence started piling up to negate his assertion.
It was discovered that despite years of pressuring the Malaysian Election Commission (EC) to ensure a free, fair and unbiased election the EC continued to demonstrate its incompetence and lack of professionalism. Furthermore, evidence has emerged that websites in Malaysia are being selectively and deliberately blocked to prevent the free flow of independent information.
At early voting stations in Kuala Lumpur on April 30, independent election observers witnessed that the indelible ink being used as a mechanism to prevent multiple voting could be removed with hand sanitizer or soapy water. These reports were confirmed by independent news portal Malaysiakini, one of Malaysia’s most well regarded online news portals. Indelible ink is supposed to remain visible on the voter’s finger for a minimum of five to seven days so that an individual who tries to vote more than once will be turned away. In Malaysia, the ink can be removed quite easily shortly after it is applied. Over 50,000 military servicemen voted in early voting on April 30 and could have voted again on the May 5 polling date as a result of the faulty ink.
On May 5 there were 1000s of reports of voters being able to wipe the indelible ink off their hands quite easily. In response the Election Commissioner stated it was not a big deal since there would be no voting the following day.
In 2012 the Election Commission gave assurances to civil society groups which had staged large street protests in Kuala Lumpur that it would implement indelible ink. But the ink that was ultimately used proved to be defective and useless, casting a dark shadow on the integrity of the electoral process.
The investigative journalist website SarawakReport along with Anwar Ibrahim himself disclosed emails linking the Prime Minister’s Office to charter dozens of flights arranged to bring thousands of people from Borneo to Peninsular Malaysia. There are thousands of Indonesians and Bengali workers employed by palm oil plantations on the island of Borneo. In response to allegations that this was a coordinated effort to move voters into swing distracts to cast illegal ballots, UMNO Secretary General Tengku Adnan Mansor said that the airplanes were part of a get out the vote effort paid for by friends of the ruling party.
On Election Day numerous witnesses encountered busloads of voters brought to polling stations. When confronted, the voters on these busses did not look like Malaysians and many of them could not perform simple tasks like sing the national anthem or recite the address on their national ID card.
Across Malaysia there were dozens of parliamentary and state races that were decided by less than 1,000 votes. It is entirely possible that a few hundred voters placed into these marginal areas could have determined outcomes.
The mainstream media is completely controlled by the government and denied access to the opposition. Malaysia ranks 145 on Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index and has dropped in the ranking every year since 2003. During the campaign period countless hours of airtime and dozens of pages of newsprint are dedicated to promoting lies and misinformation about the opposition without providing any opportunity for rebuttal. There can be no real democracy with such a lopsided and biased media environment.
Throughout the last five years Malaysian authorities have arrested bloggers under charges of sedition and treason. On May 1 a blogger running the site milosuam.blogspot.co.uk was arrested at the headquarters of the People’s Justice Party outside of Kuala Lumpur. Initial reports indicate he was arrested for treason.
Based on the voter list gazetted in March 2013 the following has been identified:
– Postal voters who by definition are engaged in national service with a national origin from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Indonesia
– 28,000 Philippinos and Indonesians designated as voters based in
Sabah but casting ballots in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor state
– The Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project has identified countless examples of dubious registrations in the voter file including instances of 100s of registered voters residing in a single home, foreign nationals listed as registered voters, individuals registered doubly as regular and postal voters,
The Election Commission acknowledged many of these problems but failed to take adequate steps to resolve them.
Since Parliament was dissolved, independent news sites were targets of massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and selective blocking within Malaysia. While the exact mechanism of the blocking is being investigated, visitors to these websites as well as those of Malaysiakini, RadioFreeSarawak.com and SarawakReport.org experienced slow downs or sudden drops in service.
After 56 years of single-party, semi-authoritarian rule the majority of Malaysians decided it is time to change the government. Polling by independent groups indicated that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition will win a clear majority of the seats in the Federal Parliament and gain control of at least seven of Malaysia’s fourteen states and territories. Many Malaysians today are furious that a government that is desperate to retain power at all costs has hijacked their Constitutional rights.
Dr Azeem Ibrahim is the Executive Chairman of The Scotland Institute and Fellow a the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
This article was published by The Huffington Post on May 7, 2013.