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Electoral reforms urgently needed

Malaysia’s 13th General Elections on 5th May 2013 saw a record turnout of voters exercising their constitutional right to choose the next Federal and State governments. Of the total 10.9 million votes cast, Barisan Nasional (BN) garnered 48.6% of the overall vote while the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition won 51.4%. For state seats, BN won 275 vs. 230 for PR. At the Federal level, this translated to 133 parliamentary seats for BN and 89 for PR.

What these results starkly show is the urgent need to address the imbalance between the ratio of popular votes garnered against seats won. For this, one needs to look at the system which produced this result - the current electoral process.

Transparency International’s headquarters in Berlin received more than 3,000 complaints related to this election. Money politics, handouts, voter intimidation, misuse of government resources and statements with racial and religious overtones are some of the issues which have been reported during the campaign period. To protect the sanctity of the electoral process, these and other offences should be prosecuted to the full extent of the Election Offences Act by the Election Commission (EC) and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC).

On a wider scale, structural reforms are urgently required to address fundamental issues such as the constituency delineation exercise, gerrymandering, a clean electoral roll, equal access to public media and perhaps most importantly, the independence of the EC.

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) calls on all stakeholders including political parties, the EC and civil society to work together to improve our electoral process. We should aim for a transparent electoral system which fairly reflects the will of the majority. This process should begin now.

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Datuk Paul Low, President
T: +6017 876 2550