Freedom House Calls on All Parties to Halt Violence Ahead of Malaysia’s Upcoming Elections

Freedom House condemns the intimidation and violence carried out by supporters of both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalitions ahead of Malaysia’s general elections. As Malaysians prepare to cast their votes on May 5th, in one of the most closely contested parliamentary elections to date, they do so against a backdrop of escalating intimidation and violence that undermines the peace and stability of the country.

“Malaysian voters have been subjected to dirty politicking and coercion, which has heightened communal tensions and ultimately harms Malaysia’s democratic prospects,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of Freedom House.

More than 2,000 attacks have been recorded by police since Parliament was dissolved and the upcoming elections were announced on April 3rd. They have included arson, bombings, beatings,  destruction of property, and numerous incidents of threats against voters identifying with both the opposition and ruling parties. This has led to threats of reprisal from both sides. There also are widespread reports of vote-buying, voter registration list rigging, and inflammatory media campaigns targeting specific ethnic and religious communities.

Cyber-attacks against news outlets that provide coverage of opposition candidates have made them inoperable for extensive periods and have further undermined free expression and access to information. All parties have engaged in highly vitriolic media campaigns that have reinforced historical tensions between the Malay Muslim majority and Chinese and Indian minority communities. Many fear that these animosities will fester well after the elections are over.

“Both the ruling and opposition leaders must set a strong example to their supporters and unequivocally demand an immediate end to this incitement and harassment,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Southeast Asia programs at Freedom House. “All of Malaysia’s citizens deserve the right to vote in a free and fair election devoid of violence and intimidation.”

Malaysia is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.

To learn more about Malaysia, visit:

Freedom in the World 2013: Malaysia

Freedom of the Press 2012: Malaysia

Freedom on the Net 2012: Malaysia

Countries at the Crossroads 2012: Malaysia

Blog: Freedom at Issue

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter and our blog.