GE14: The future of our nation is in our hands

GE14: Nation going into the last mile

COMMENT | The mother of all elections is upon us. Those who want to see our nation change for the better must gear up with fortitude and determination for the last mile.

The government likes to boast about our democracy. In fact, our democracy has been almost entirely hollowed out. The playing field is now so heavily tilted in favour of the government that it is an uphill battle to dislodge them. What we have is a system of political privilege for Umno-BN and institutional bias against their opponents.

It’s not just the hastily enacted redelineation bill or even the fake news bill; it’s the full weight of the government that we are now up against. Aided and abetted by dishonourable officials, the entire machinery of government has been pressed into the service of Umno-BN. It’s government of the party, by the party and for the party!

The actions of the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and the Election Commission (EC), in particular, have been shamefully biased and unfair. The choice of a weekday (Wednesday) for polling is only the latest stab in the back by the EC, while the selection of such ‘great icons of democracy’ like Thailand, Maldives, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan to observe the elections shows how low they have to go to seek legitimacy.

Despite their caretaker status, the government also continues to use the resources of the state in the election campaign contrary to convention. In effect, they are using our money to thwart our right to elect our representatives freely and fairly.

In addition, Umno-BN has complete access to major channels of communication – television, radio, print media – to get their message out as well as unfettered access to engage key constituencies like the civil service, the armed forces, the police and other groups but not so the opposition. How democratic is that?

And then, of course, there is the issue of campaign financing or more appropriately, vote buying. Some have all the money in the world from mysterious sources to splash around; others have to depend on small donations from working people to fight a bare-bones campaign.

No time to despair

But this is what we are up against – the entire might and machinery of the government. Only the combined effort of the people, working together with unity of purpose, can help even the odds and prevent these elections from being over before they even begin.

This is no time then to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, sit on the fence or quibble about whether Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the right man for the job. The die is already cast, the battle lines drawn. It’s time to choose a side, time to take a stand.

We’ve complained and grumbled long enough. We have ‘WhatsApped’ our frustrations, tweeted our disdain for no-good politicians and emailed our anger over the abuse of power for years. Now it’s time for action. Those who are unwilling to act have no business complaining.

And neither is this the time to despair or be discouraged by those who want us to think that our votes will not make a difference. It’s a time to believe, to hope, to walk by faith. It may be an uphill battle but it is by no means a lost cause.

If someone had told me years ago that despots like Ceausescu (Romania), Hoxha (Albania), Honecker (East Germany) or Suharto or Marcos would someday fall, I would have found it hard to believe.

They gathered to themselves all the power of the state and controlled almost every facet of their society, and yet they fell. Sooner or later, the yearning of the people for freedom, for justice, for a better life breaks through.

Who is to say that such a moment has not finally come for us?

Signs of change

Each and every person who longs for a better nation must, therefore, do their duty at this pivotal moment in our history by rallying around the candidates that share our hopes for change, raising the necessary funds they need, canvassing for support, and volunteering their time and service. They need our help. They can’t do it on their own. Every little bit helps.

Let’s use social media to spread the word. Let’s remind the doubters and the fence-sitters of the corruption, the racism and the abuse of power that has hobbled our nation for too long. Let’s ‘viralise’ the speeches and messages of those who stand for change. Let’s knock on every door, appeal to friend and foe alike. Let’s enlist as polling agents/counting agents to ensure no one steals this election.

And above all, let’s vote and vote massively – vote for change, vote for our future, vote for the dream of the Malaysia we have carried in our hearts for so long.

Hundreds of thousands of registered voters didn’t bother to vote the last time around and the result was yet more corruption, anti-democratic legislation, racism and the abuse of power. We can’t afford another five years of this rot. Let the millions who didn’t vote the last time join the battle this time and send a mighty roar from every corner of our nation that enough is enough.

In the end, it is not Mahathir or Wan Azizah Wan Ismail or Lim Kit Siang or Mat Sabu who is going to win or lose these elections but we the people.

The ground is already shifting. The signs of it are everywhere. The resounding response to recent attempts to demonise Mahathir shows that people everywhere are simply fed up with the corruption, cronyism and heavy-handedness of Umno-BN and are desperate for change.

It’s the last mile now; the future of our nation is in our hands. What will you do?

GE14: Nation going into the last mile
13 April 2018 – malaysiakini


Ahead of GE14, Suhakam spotlights EC’s declining public confidence

Ahead of GE14, Suhakam spotlights EC’s declining public confidence

GE14 | The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), in a strongly worded statement today, expressed concern over the conduct of the Election Commission.

Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail noted that was declining public confidence in the EC due to it redelineation exercise “widely seen to be unfair, biased and disproportionate.”

Suhakam also stated its worry about the mainstream media not providing fair coverage and an increase in hate speech ahead of the 14th general election slated for May 9.

The commission said it will be monitoring the upcoming polls, but added that it was constrained by limited resources.

The full statement is reproduced below:

Elections with integrity is a basic requirement for sustained efforts to promote and protect human rights and in turn, democracy.

As the country gears up to face the GE14, Suhakam in line with its legal mandate sees it as its duty to play a necessary role.

All citizens have the right to participate in government and public affairs by voting or by being elected through elections with integrity that are genuinely free and fair.

The right of political participation shall be guaranteed by the respect for the right to vote, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association as well as the right to liberty and security of person.

Suhakam is of the view that GE14 will be a watershed for Malaysian democracy that will significantly shape the future of our country.

Suhakam cautions that GE14 cannot be blemished by polarisation and division, particularly along racial and societal lines threatening our pluralism.

Underlining that democracy is underpinned by respect for human rights, respect for the rule of law, free and fair elections as well as bearing in mind the monitoring principles of independence and impartiality, Suhakam will observe and monitor the election process.

By reason of public concern over the integrity of the present electoral process, Suhakam’s overarching aim is to help promote transparent and democratic elections with integrity.

Suhakam’s observations and monitoring will seek to provide an accurate measure of the quality of the election; promote confidence in the process; and provide recommendations for improving the process.

Suhakam will also vigilantly observe actions that can amount to vote-buying and will not hesitate in pursuance of its mandate, to investigate and follow up on complaints and bring these to the consideration of the authorities, including the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

EC’s impartiality

The degree to which the country’s EC demonstrates its independence, credibility, integrity and transparency can determine if elections are free and fair.

Sections of the public have questioned the independence and integrity of the EC, and whether it is totally and manifestly impartial.

Suhakam accepts the legitimacy of these questions and understands the declining public confidence in the EC as the redelineation of electoral boundaries was widely seen to be unfair, biased and disproportionate.

Suhakam found that there was insufficient information on the effect of the redelineation and a lack of meaningful public consultation on the exercise, in breach of the right to freedom of information.

Suhakam is deeply concerned with allegations that voters may not have full information on their new polling stations following the re-drawing of electoral boundaries in many areas.

It is the responsibility of the EC to ensure that voters are duly informed of their place of voting if this has changed.

Suhakam also found that the local inquiry process was not open to the public, and the spokespersons at the inquiry were not allowed legal representation, which is fundamental to the rule of law and to democracy itself.

The role that elections with integrity plays in ensuring respect for civil and political rights is also enshrined in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that the government has not acceded to, which can be seen as reflecting upon our prejudices in the development of international human rights standards.

Suhakam has observed with dismay the position taken by the mainstream media in not providing all political parties with equal and non-discriminatory access to the media during this period.

The same level of neutrality, impartiality and balance in covering party manifestos, for example, were not provided by the mainstream media for Malaysians and voters to receive a diverse range of information to enable them to make an informed choice.

Suhakam emphasizes that when equal access or equal advertising opportunities to the media are denied, the ability to fairly and democratically compete in elections will be impaired.

Spread of hate speech

Suhakam is increasingly noticing the spread of hate speech ahead of GE14.

Worried about this tendency, Suhakam calls on politicians to exercise their right to freedom of expression responsibly as it is our fundamental responsibility to ensure peace and harmony in Malaysia.

Suhakam appeals to all politicians to refrain from racially charged speeches during the election period that can shamefully characterise Malaysian politics.

Suhakam will also focus its observations on women’s participation during the different phases of GE14, as we recognise the underrepresentation of women in politics.

Persons with disabilities have an equal right to participate in the electoral process and Suhakam advises that the must EC guarantee that PWDs are given the same opportunities as every other citizen to vote.

Suhakam’s observations and monitoring will also include issues connected to political financing, commitments made and limits to the use of government structures and vehicles during the caretaker government period.

Given its limitations and budget, Suhakam will not be able to comprehensively monitor the length and breadth of the election, but will try to monitor effectively some out of the 222 parliamentary seats.

As Suhakam role is built in our mandate, we expect all bodies to respect our role on the ground and right to access to all relevant areas.

Suhakam calls on all relevant bodies and government agencies to ensure an enabling environment to encourage full participation in the election and refrain from using administrative reasons to prevent individuals or political parties from participation.

Suhakam reiterates that genuine democratic elections expressing the will of the people are a fundamental human right.

Ahead of GE14, Suhakam spotlights EC’s ‘declining public confidence’
11 Apr 2018 – malaysiakini


10 reasons why I vote BN/Umno out

10 reasons why I vote BN/Umno out

QUESTION TIME | If you are voting BN/Umno in these elections, or if you are going to spoil your vote in protest over the miserable political situation, or if you are simply undecided who to vote for, or if you are merely looking for confirmation that voting against BN/Umno is the right thing, please read this article very closely.

Here are my 10 reasons why I will not vote for BN/Umno and why I think it is imperative that we give another group a chance to run this country of ours before it is ruined completely by the incompetent, selfish, greedy, unconscionable, kleptocratic goons and gangsters who are running this country into the ground.

If these people are allowed to run rampant with their ways for another five years, the damage to the country will be enormous and it could be decades before complete recovery is possible from the morass into which we are descending. And as they become more and more desperate, there is no telling what they will do in future.

BN/Umno leaders are either kleptocrats or condone kleptocracy

Press reports quoting the Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB state that US$7 billion or about RM28 billion could not be accounted for, in other words, it has gone missing.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) says that it has established that at least US$4.5 billion has been stolen from 1MDB and is in the process of seizing billions in assets bought with the stolen money, including that notorious yacht.

It has been established that US$681 million came into caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts which he said was a donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family, part of which was since returned.

But not according to the DOJ which says it came from Tanore Finance which was controlled by Najib’s associate Jho Low. If you want to know full details you can download this report here Part A of which I wrote. Look at Appendix 4 on page 34 to see where the money went.

It is highly unlikely that the DOJ would have got its facts wrong because international money flows can be easily and accurately traced through electronic records which do not lie.

If the caretaker PM is not complicit, he should have ordered an immediate investigation and brought those responsible to book. But it was not done. Now there are assets due to Malaysia in the US and other places but they can’t be returned because Malaysia does not acknowledge the alleged robbery.

As educated people, other Umno and BN leaders must have been aware of all these but for various reasons, almost all of them have condoned Najib and continue to support him, becoming complicit in this massive kleptocracy, the biggest the world has ever seen. That’s itself is already more than enough reason to vote this whole gang out.

Not only that, this unprecedented kleptocracy has enormous side effects in terms of lack of confidence in the country by both Malaysians and foreigners which has led to a steady decline in the currency, although there is some recovery now.

This reflects a kleptocracy premium for the currency. Compared to 1970, one US dollar now gets over 40 percent more ringgit. The fall in the ringgit has caused large price increases.

2. They are endangering the future via huge, lopsided contracts

If you think kleptocracy was just a one-off event for elections in 2013 and it will not spill over to other areas, you are dead wrong. There is a hole in 1MDB and the alleged theft continued after 2013 and the only way it will not get exposed in future is if that hole is somehow filled.

This may be done via lopsided contracts, expensive contracts whereby the excess can be syphoned off into 1MDB.

One such example is the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) to be undertaken by a China company whose cost may balloon to RM100 billion eventually.

An analysis shows that it is unlikely to be viable and at RM55 billion is already too expensive. There is delayed payment to the 90 percent financing, or RM46 billion for seven years after construction, which China is offering for this project. If the project is not viable, this becomes a huge burden of debt to future generations.

This is not the only such project with China companies and there are several more in the pipeline. This may eventually take the full figure from these contracts to several hundred billion ringgit. If much of this is financed, then there will be massive debts facing future Malaysians.

Such lopsided contracts are signs of desperation. Successful kleptocracy encourages more of the same and even more in future. So think Suharto, think Marcos, think how much damage they have caused to their countries and stop our kleptocrats from continuing to do more damage to us – now.

3. They are incompetent and sidelined a previously efficient civil service

They have inculcated a culture where politicians decide what is done, when, and how much to spend. Politics decide who becomes ministers of which there are now too many incompetent ones.

There is no proper, independent study by the civil service on important matters and even if they are, they are routinely overruled. Only those who comply with the politicians move up the rungs leading eventually to an incompetent and corrupt civil service as well.

4. They have degraded the education system

They have politicised the education system, first lowering standards for teachers and then for students and then de-emphasising English which is a key language to acquire knowledge and ability because of its widespread use worldwide.

They refuse to use English for teaching subjects such as science and maths, making most of the students in the national education system poor in English. This continues in university and results in the mass production of graduates who are unemployable because of low competence levels.

5. They use unfair means to stay in power

Like all poor governments everywhere they use unfair, foul means to stay in power. Note the recent pushing through of the lopsided redelineation exercise which exacerbates already massive differences in constituency sizes against the stated aims of the constitution.

Note also the hasty passing of the Anti-Fake News Bill designed to repress fair information on 1MDB and other scandals with publication being stopped by a mere ex-parte court order.

Since 1969, all BN/Umno governments have used the race and religion cards to garner support and this continues unabated now with frequent rousing speeches about Malay rights and defending Islam as if these were being attacked by non-Muslims which are definitely not the case.

Instead, even the caretaker deputy prime minister opposed a landmark decision by the Court of Appeal which ruled that a child conceived out of wedlock can take on his or her father’s surname and that the edict on this by the National Fatwa Committee does not have the force of law.

6. They have done nothing about corruption

The clear manifestation of corruption is people living way beyond their means. This is easily established by looking at the assets of people, especially those in high positions and determining how they came to possess such assets, be it a yacht or a diamond necklace.

But that line of investigation has never been implemented under BN/Umno. Politicians continue to amass vast fortunes with many having large cars, some kept in underground car parks, but no one is brought to account except for opposition leaders and the so-called small fry.

Some of them not so small but very much so when compared to the size of the kleptocracy that is taking place.

7. In the name of race, they enrich themselves

In September 2013, Najib announced a RM30 billion “bumiputera empowerment” programme, basically a series of contracts which will be given to bumiputera entrepreneurs. But will these contracts make a difference to the vast majority of 67 percent of bumiputera in the country? No.

The people who will get them are those who are in Umno’s upper echelon, many of whom will act as mere middlemen and pass it on to others to implement, getting an upfront commission in the process.

Select bumiputera – “the Umnoputera” – who are already rich get richer but the vast majority are left out. There are other methods they should have adopted a long time ago to help the bumiputera. But how could they when corruption and patronage and now kleptocracy got into the way?

8. Most Malaysians have not benefited enough under their rule

The claim that the government has eliminated poverty in the country is rather ridiculous when the poverty line income is defined as around an average RM800 a month per household, yes household, not even a person.

What is more relevant is a living wage which Bank Negara Malaysia recently estimated at RM2,700 per month per person for Kuala Lumpur and RM6,500 per month for a household of two parents and two children.

Using such measures, the indications are that the vast majority of the people may not have benefited much from government measures. That’s a poor performance for a resource-rich country like Malaysia.

9. They use gangsters and thugs to do their bidding

Stories have been rampant about Umno using thugs for a long time now but what surprised was an admission by a top Umno leader that there were “gangsters” he sided with.

He not only defended Tiga Line, a gang outlawed by the police but included himself and others as part of the gang. He further condoned their actions and asked them to carry on.

10. They don’t give a damn about democracy

Democracy is about giving everyone an equal right to vote, to live the way he or she chooses so long as he harms no one else, freedom of expression, right of assembly and equal treatment under the law.

But none of this is practised with a slew of legislation to deny the public their legitimate rights with even more legislation being contemplated, some in blatant violation of the constitution. The clear partiality of the enforcement agencies makes things much worse.

Gird your resolve

Well, that’s my list of 10 although there is more. I ask that you take these into consideration before you put your cross for BN. Desperate people do desperate things. They must not be in power.

Please think carefully about your future and the future of your children depend upon it. In fact, it’s better if you give the opposition a chance.

One question to ponder for those who think the opposition is the same as BN – have Penang and Selangor overall become better under the opposition? You know the answer, it’s a definite “yes”.

For those of you who will spoil your vote, what an utter waste of a precious privilege. What do you hope to achieve by squandering this? If you are so desperate and disappointed by the politics, at least consider giving someone else a chance to change things while they are in power.

At least you would have exercised your constitutional right properly instead of playing into the hands of those in power who will rejoice because your vote won’t help to tip the balance.

For those who will vote against BN/Umno, I hope this article girds your resolve more than ever and you will do your part about spreading the message as to why this government has to go.

To everyone, do please go out and vote. Let nothing stop you from exercising your legitimate right. Make every vote count.

10 reasons why I vote BN/Umno out
12 Apr 2018 – Malaysiakini


We’re coming home on May 9, say Malaysians in Singapore

We’re coming home on May 9, say Malaysians in Singapore

Malaysians working in Singapore are undeterred by the midweek polling day.

Many Malaysians working in Singapore are applying for leave so that they can return home to cast their votes on May 9.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians working in Singapore are determined to return home to cast their votes despite the inconvenience posed by the midweek polling day.

For Loo Xian, 28, the reason is simple – Malaysia is home.

Loo, who works at an international fashion house in Singapore, said all of her Malaysian colleagues would be making their way to their hometowns to cast their votes on May 9.

“Although being in Singapore is better than Malaysia in many ways, Malaysia is still the home you want to come back to.

“Let me say this: the more they try to make it difficult for us to go back to vote, the more I want to prove them wrong,” Loo said.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said in January that Malaysian voters living in Singapore were not expected to return in numbers to vote in the 14th general election (GE14) as they felt that they had been “cheated” by the opposition in past polls.

The Pulai lawmaker also dismissed the possibility of Malaysians in Singapore tilting the balance towards the opposition, especially in Johor where most of them are registered as voters.

His remarks have now resurfaced and gone viral on social media, reposted by Malaysians who are unhappy with it.

Loo said one of her colleagues was travelling back to Teluk Intan for the polls.

“We are just applying for our leave days and our boss has agreed to let us go home to vote. We are very grateful for that.

“Another way to get around this is, we can request to work remotely,” she added.

Shatir Baha, 35, said it was wrong for Nur Jazlan to make assumptions about those working in Singapore.

“Many of us have to resort to working in Singapore because we can’t find jobs in Malaysia that pay us enough to support the rising cost of living.

“If we had a choice, we would of course prefer to stay in Malaysia. Nobody wants to leave their families and work in another country.

“I have already bought my flight ticket home, and I will make sure that I do my bit to ensure that Malaysians will no long have to work in Singapore,” he said.

Shatir said together, Malaysians could help rebuild the nation and make the country great again with higher paying job opportunities.

Anita Hassan, 31, who also works in Singapore, said she and her friends had been waiting for the Election Commission’s (EC) announcement on the nomination and polling dates so that they could book their tickets home.

“Some of us were anticipating polling day to be in early May.

“We planned our schedules around those few weeks. None of us booked any holidays abroad, just in case.

“So, Nur Jazlan, we are coming back,” she said.

Some are even considering taking unpaid leave so that they can return to cast their votes.

Lim Thian Yi, 34, who is from Johor, said he and his colleagues had already applied for two days of leave, including a day of unpaid leave.

“A lot of Johoreans work in Singapore, they are used to the travelling.

“Some may not be able to take too many days off, but they are willing to risk it. For the first time, I am witnessing so much unity after the last general election. I feel Malaysians are even more united this time around,” he said.

Nur Jazlan had also questioned Hong Kong-based airline, Cathay Pacific, for offering a waiver for rebooking and rerouting charges for Malaysians travelling on polling day.

He recently said there was no need to declare May 9 a public holiday as under the law, employers were required to give their employees time off to to cast their votes.

In the 2008 and 2013 elections, scores of Malaysians in Singapore returned home to vote, causing massive congestion at the Causeway.

The human resources ministry estimated in 2015 that there were about 350,000 Malaysians working in Singapore and another 386,000 with permanent resident status.

The EC had announced earlier that those residing in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Kalimantan province, Indonesia, cannot apply for postal voting and must return to Malaysia to cast their votes on polling day.

We’re coming home on May 9, say Malaysians in Singapore
April 13, 2018


Malaysian election may spring a surprise – Financial Times

Malaysian election may spring a surprise

  • We expect Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition to be returned to power at the federal level in the May 9 election.
  • However, signs of rising Malay support for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition mean there is a greater chance of a change of government.
  • If the opposition does spring a surprise, it is unlikely to stick to the current administration’s target of a balanced budget by 2023.

The ruling BN coalition should win Malaysia’s general election on May 9. However, we sensed palpable Malay dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Najib Razak and his government during recent visits to the north of the country, suggesting victory may not be straightforward.
Malaise in Malay heartland

Malay taxi drivers are typically staunch BN supporters but, during FTCR’s trip to the Malay heartland in northern Malaysia last month, a Malay cabbie driving us from the Thai border to Penang complained about rising living costs. He said he had always voted for the leading party in the ruling front, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) led by Mr Najib. But this time he plans to vote for PH, now led by the nonagenarian former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

An April FTCR survey of northern Malaysians, from Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and northern Perak, showed that slightly more than half of the 252 respondents had a negative view of current economic conditions, while less than a quarter said they were happy. When asked about the state of politics in the north, half said they were unhappy with the current situation compared with slightly less than a quarter who said otherwise.

This is against a backdrop of well-attended political rallies held by PH in Malay-majority rural areas. During previous elections, the opposition found it hard to organise events in such places, especially within Malay-dominated plantation settlements. But now PH is making headway.

Malays form the backbone of BN support and make up half of Malaysia’s 32m people. Along with indigenous groups in Sabah and Sarawak, Malays are typically more likely to vote for BN than not. Ethnic Chinese and Indian people are generally pro-opposition.
Preparing for the ‘tsunami’

One of the reasons we think BN and Mr Najib will return to power is the recent redrawing of electoral boundaries. This boosts the ruling side’s chances of success by redistributing Malay voters to marginal seats, primarily in the suburbs, while packing other ethnic groups into opposition strongholds in the cities. In the 2013 election, BN won 60 per cent of parliamentary seats despite gaining only 47 per cent of the popular vote.

We believe this gerrymandering is designed to help BN win a two-thirds majority in parliament, the level of control required to amend the constitution without opposition support. BN lost this majority in 2008 and has yet to regain it. Mr Najib needs to improve Umno and BN’s electoral performance to secure his position amid widespread dissatisfaction over his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, and to counter the risk of losing control over some state assemblies, especially the one in Kedah.

The strategy will only work if the level of Malay support remains where it was in 2013; a large Malay swing towards PH would complicate BN’s effort to increase its majority.

It is hard to judge the scale of the coming swing, which opposition figures are calling a “Malay tsunami”. Our own national study does not track ethnicity, but an FTCR first-quarter 2018 survey showed 1,000 respondents living in cities across Malaysia were receptive to the idea of Mr Mahathir returning as prime minister. Mr Najib’s approval rating among the same respondents remained low.

Mr Najib is on his guard. Unusually, polling day will be on a weekday. This will discourage many working in the cities from travelling far to the countryside where they are registered to vote. High voter turnout is generally associated with discontent; when BN lost the popular vote to the opposition in 2013, the turnout hit a record 84.8 per cent. The average turnout for Malaysian general elections since 1964 is 74.8 per cent.

Malaysian election may spring a surprise
19 April 2018 – Financial Times


If Najib wins big, an era of more repression awaits: US thinktank

If Najib wins big, an era of more repression awaits: US thinktank

GE14 | US thinktank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has predicted a more “repressive” Malaysia should caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and BN win again in the upcoming general election.

“If Najib and his coalition win the election – and especially if they win by a considerable amount – they are likely to usher in an era of a much more repressive Malaysia.

“Najib has wielded power repressively in his current term, but in another term he could well try to turn Malaysia in a direction closer to Turkey or other more personalised authoritarian states,” Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR’s senior fellow for Southeast Asia said in a blog post.

Despite this, Kurlantzick believes that a massive victory by BN would not necessarily lead to a further empowerment of conservative and Islamist groups in Malaysia.

“If Najib scores a large victory, PAS will be less equipped to extract concessions from the new government.

“However, if Najib does not win big, and PAS’ split of the opposition is a major factor in Najib’s win, PAS and its Islamist allies will be poised to make sizable demands on the government.”

Kurlantzick also noted that it would be a major upset if the opposition coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad wins the election this time around, especially with Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim still imprisoned.

Despite the opposition having made gains in 2013, the public discontent with the 1MDB scandal, other allegations of corruption involving the government, as well as high living costs, Kurlantzick said Najib and BN are still likely to win.

“Mahathir remains distrusted by some in the opposition, and he does not have the ability to galvanise the broad opposition coalition the way that Anwar had.

“The Najib government has dished out a massive pre-election budget, which is a norm in Malaysia, to appeal to voters.

“Under new election regulations, many districts are even more gerrymandered than in past year, further diluting the power of urban voters, who tend to support the opposition.

“And Najib’s parliament recently passed a law against ‘fake news’ designed to further chill political discourse in Malaysia, a country where Najib has already overseen significant crackdowns on expression over the past five years.”

The states of Sabah and Sarawak, he added, will once again play a critical role in the election.

“In the past, they have been virtual vote banks for the ruling coalition, and the opposition has failed to make much headway in either of these states.

“For Sabah and Sarawak’s reliability, the governing coalition has lavished money and political power on these two states located on the island of Borneo.”

If Najib wins big, an era of more repression awaits: US thinktank
10 April 2018 – malaysiakini


Bersih demands transparency on GE14 international observers

Bersih demands transparency on GE14 international observers

GE14 | Electoral reform coalition Bersih wants the Election Commission to be more transparent and provide more information about the international observers they have invited for the 14th general election.

“Transparency of the process is very important.

“It’s not enough for EC to say we’ve invited other countries and NGOs to observe, but don’t tell us how, or the conduct of the observations,” said Bersih outreach officer Chan Tsu Chong in a press conference at their office in Petaling Jaya today.

Bersih secretariat member Mandeep Singh also had a host of questions for the EC about the international observers.

“When are you (international observers) coming, what are the terms of reference?

“Why was Anfrel, a body that is a known independent NGO, not invited? Why was Carter Center and the Commonwealth secretariat not invited? These are bodies that are known internationally for making election observations.

“How many polling stations are they going to?” he asked.

Yesterday, EC chairperson Mohd Hashim Abdullah announced that they had invited 14 countries as international observers for GE14.

Seven countries had accepted the invitations – Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Timor Leste, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan.

‘How much good will it do?’

Bersih acting chairperson Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari applauded the effort to invite international observers, but noted that it would have been better if they originated from more established democracies.

“It’s good. We have been pushing for international observers, but we hope more countries, more established democracies would come.

“If the countries’ own democracy can be questioned, then how much good will it do?” he said.

With the exception of Timor-Leste, The Economist’s Democracy Index 2017 and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2018 reports show that Malaysia fared better on their democracy scale than the six other countries invited to be international observers for GE14.

The Economist considered Cambodia and Azerbaijan to be authoritarian regimes, while the Freedom House referred to Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan as “consolidated authoritarian regimes.”

Observe the entire process

Mandeep also drew from his own experience as an international observer for elections in Nepal and Sri Lanka, saying that he spent close to a month observing the entire electoral process.

As such, he expressed his hope that the observers would be in Malaysia soon – given that the election is scheduled for less than a month from today – instead of waiting for the 11-day campaigning period.

Mandeep added that international observers are commonly allowed to meet local observers.

“When we observe international elections, we are allowed to meet local groups to get reports from local groups.

“Bersih is ready at any time to share all our reports and finding with all these (international observer) groups.

“Whether they will be allowed to meet us, that’s another question,” he said.

Chan also stressed the importance of the final report that these international observers are supposed to produce.

“The report of the election observers are very important, because the whole purpose is we want people to know at the end of the observation missions, what are your findings and recommendations,” he added.

The EC did not provide a full list of the invited observers nor their exact mandate.

Normally, electoral management bodies (EMB) from the European Union, Carter Center or Anfrel would provide a full list of election observers and their backgrounds for transparency.

These EMBs would monitor the elections unhindered, prior to nomination day, up until after voting day, and make their observations and recommendations public.

The EC said that international and local observers will have access to nomination centres, early polling centres, polling centres, counting centres, as well as the process of tallying the ballots at the official tallying centres.

There are no details on restrictions imposed.

Bersih demands transparency on GE14 international observers
11 April 2018 – malaysiakini

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