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CBS News is reporting, “25,000 Malaysians rally for reform, face tear gas”.
Malaysia is considered one of the most democratic countries, in Muslim world, to stand aside with Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia. However, there are some aspects of Malaysian democratic and election processes that are widely considered undemocratic and troublesome. International human rights groups and national activists like Bersih has been protesting and raising their concerns over these issues.
The most troublesome aspects of these processes in Malaysia are as follows:
1) There are no elections at local level and local government officials are generally appointed by state governments. It is generally believed that people are more likely to elect opposition party members to these governments.
2) They use to a require RM5000 to run for a parliamentary seat and RM3000 to run for state legislature. This was raised to RM10000 and RM5000 respectively in 2004. In addition to this, in 2004, each candidate was required to deposit an additional amount of RM5000 to clean-up the banners and posters after the elections. This led to the government parties’ winning an unprecedented 17 uncontested seats in 2004 elections.
3) Candidates are required to obtain, fill out and return the nomination forms within an hour. This time used to be two hours before. This also bars the parties and candidates with less resources, from participation in elections.
4) Opposition parties have an increasingly limited access to government linked mainstream media. Before 1999 the opposition parties were provided a brief time period to broadcast their manifestos on Radio Television Malaysia (RTM). But in 1999, government changed the policy, insisting, since RTM is owned by government, as opposed to public, hence government parties will be given preference. How ridiculous? First of all, it must be free, privately or non=profit owned. Second, it is run by tax payer money, so how can it be government owned? It is tax payer owned.
5) Distribution of seats and voters is set in a way that government parties win much higher proportion of seats, compared to the proportion of votes they get. While opposition gets much smaller proportion of seats in parliament compared to the proportion of votes they get. For example, in 2004, government parties won 90.41% of parliament seats, just by getting 63.9% votes. In 1959 they got only 51.7% votes, but, won 71.15% of seats. In comparison, Opposition won only 9.59% of seats with 36.1% votes, in 2004. In 1969, opposition won 50.7% votes, but got only 34.03% seats (Reminds me Al-Gore).
6) Since 1959, same coalition of parties, which has changed it’s name, along the way, since then, due to changes in it’s composition, has controlled the government, all the way to-the-date. This even breaks the record of many kings, kingdoms and dynasties in the history of world.
7) Constitution accepts the peoples right to assemble, gather and protest. But, legally, people are not allowed to do that. For five or more people to assemble or gather at an open public place, they require an special permission, which is seldom granted. If they try to exercise this constitutional right and in the process, of course, break the law, they are massively arrested, fired by tear gas and showered by high speed water hoses.
8) Government led coalition breaks election laws and rules all the time and no one, including law enforcement, can stop them.
9) Media is controlled by government and opposition has almost no access to it.
10) Nomination and election campaigning time is extremely short and does not allow opposition to appropriately reach people specially in the far off areas. This is made worse by their almost no access to media, while government coalition parties have an year round, unlimited access to media.
As it may be clear, by now, to all readers that this is not a real democracy from any popular and established standpoint. How can you expect your voter to be well informed, when you do not allow candidates participating in elections, to even reach out to media? How can you expect elections to be fair when ruling coalition itself breaks laws, rules and regulations, all the time? It is shown that government led coalition spends lot more then it is legally allowed to spend on elections, while opposition can’t. In 2004, government led coalition spent RM1.5 billion in elections. while, legally they were allowed to spend only RM94,300,000. They are known to buy voters who cast multiple votes at different polling stations and booths.
You cannot deny that Malaysia is a prime example of economic prosperity, and development and growth in Muslim world. I am sure that ruling coalition will not ruin that with their clinging to power. The following reform in Malaysia is considered extremely important and must be implemented immediately:
Media must be made free, as soon as possible. The whole democratic principle of one person one vote is based on free dissemination of, and access to information. In a democratic society, every citizen, as general principle, has a right to all information. National security clause, which is widely used and abused in United States and other western countries, to classify the information and make access to it limited, is a serious violation of democratic principles. It is known and accepted for a long time, now, that secrecy, specially in governments and corporations, leads to wide, deep and strong corruption. Even in countries like United States, and other western countries, this has led to unbelievable corruption, cover-ups and public ignorance of very sensitive information, effecting their every day lives. In opposition to the democratic principles, this allows government officials and generals, to do conspiracies, and design and implement policies contrary to general public opinion, which has caused serious damages to countries and nations, including United States. The worst part of it is that, due to classified nature on these documents and information, public and voters never get aware of these conspiracies and the culprits are never subjected to justice. Decades later, these documents are declassified and made public in the name of freedom of information. Unfortunately there exists no freedom of information at that stage, as most of the players and participants are not even alive at that point. Rather, all of them are at least retired by that time.
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