Irregularities in Malaysian Election Must Be Investigated

Washington

Freedom House is concerned about the widespread irregularities that have marred Malaysia’s general elections and urges the Election Commission of Malaysia to restore the public’s trust in its mandate by conducting a fair and transparent investigation.

Following a highly polarizing campaigning season plagued by voter intimidation and allegations of fraud, Malaysians turned out in record numbers to vote on May 5. The hotly contested election resulted in a simple majority of 133 seats for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, which saw its worst-ever performance. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR), a three-party multiethnic alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim, gained seven new seats for a total of 89 seats. Initial results suggest that the PR won the popular vote with slightly over 50 percent of all votes cast. The opposition claims that the BN victory is a result of the ruling coalition’s gerrymandering, highly controlled access to the media, and fraudulent electoral tactics.

Given that 44 seats were won by a margin of less than five percent by both the BN and the PR, the discovery of significant fraud could tip the results.

“These are serious allegations that merit careful scrutiny by the Election Commission,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of Freedom House. “In an election this close, a transparent and impartial investigation of alleged wrongdoing is critical to give Malaysian citizens confidence in the electoral results.”

PR leader Anwar rejected the BN victory as flawed and has organized a rally for tomorrow to challenge the results and demand electoral reform. Approximately 20,000 people had confirmed as of Tuesday, May 7 on Facebook that they would attend the rally to be held near the capital. In the past, the government has cracked down harshly on peaceful demonstrations that called for clean elections.

“Prime Minister Najib must now protect the rights of all Malaysians to freely assemble and express their dissatisfaction with the status quo of dirty politicking,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Southeast Asia programs at Freedom House. “Ensuring the right to free expression and peaceful protest is fundamental to the country’s democratic process and the entire world is watching.”

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

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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.