Malaysia’s Elections – a Chance for Hard-line Civil Society?

Malasia Elecciones

The next Malaysia elections need to be called by June 2013 and commentators herald this occasion as an opportunity for opposition parties with manifestos touching upon issues of transparency, equality and social justice to defeat ‘the world’s longest continually-elected political coalition, the National Front (Barisan Nasional)….’.

The National Front party has grown stale and unresponsive to the growing middle class who are increasingly dissatisfied with ongoing corruption and demand better civil liberties. The party has won every election since 1957 and the current opposition warns of a possible electoral fraud.

Current security and economic growth are unsustainable because they are based on preferential treatment of Malay people and policies that discriminate other minority groups. Although Malay people enjoyed their privileges, the new middle class demand liberalization of the economy and modernization of the society.

Malaysia is a vibrant society consisting of Malay, Chinese and Indian communities where giving preferential status to one means discriminating the other, thus neglecting social cohesion and inclusion.  This type of political behaviour leads to unrest as evidenced by mass street rallies organized throughout decades by a broad-based civil society movement, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, who demand a more level playing field.

The current government is in a strong position due to its monopoly on the media, giving ‘fiscal sweeteners’ to its electorate and pumping money into the economy to induce economic growth as a part of its political strategy. Moreover, all Malaysian newspapers need a government permit to go to print. However, in a very recent landmark judgment, the High Court quashed the Home Ministry’s decision to deny a publishing permit for a popular online news portal. The judge ruled the Home Ministry’s decision as being unreasonable and in fact unlawful. This judgment strengthens freedom of speech and could help to pave the way for Malaysian democracy and allow independent newspapers to exist, as the vast majority of the media is currently owned and controlled by the government.

The Shared Societies Project hopes that the peoples of Malaysia will use the upcoming elections as an opportunity to elect the best party with the best potential for achieving social cohesion and democratic development which will unite the peoples of Malaysia in building a diverse and equal Malaysia.

Relevant News:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/malaysia/235-malaysias-coming-election-beyond-communalism.aspx?utm_source=malaysiareport&utm_medium=1&utm_campaign=mremail

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/malaysia-economy-idUSL4E8JG1X720120816

http://www.economist.com/node/21553513

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/connect-asia/malaysian-court-orders-government-to-review-print-permit-for-news-portal/1024106

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One comment

  1. Elizabeth says:

    It is usually a bad sign when the same political party is in control of a country’s government for so many years – not only does it demand suspicion of electoral fraud, but it ends up being both the cause and effect of a society that cannot progress for fear of criticizing its government’s policies. 99% of the time, that kind of situation is detrimental to the inclusion of all citizens in their government. I too hope that the upcoming elections will open up an opportunity for some progressive change in Malaysia, but I wonder about the probability of that happening (especially if it is indeed true that the ruling government has engaged in election fraud). I also wonder about how open the current government is to allowing independent elections observers into the country.

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