A New Beginning for Malaysian Politics?
May 8, 2013
On May 6, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took the oath of office as Malaysia’s 7th prime minister before King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah at the National Palace. Prime Minister Najib’s coalition, Barisan Nasional, returned to power when it won 133 of the 222 parliamentary seats to form the Federal Government.
For many Malaysians, there were mixed feelings on the result. On the one hand, they are tired of politicking and want to move on with their daily lives. On the other hand, one cannot help but to be upset with how the elections were conducted in general. Among a myriad of other issues, the “indelible ink” marked on voters’ index fingers, a new procedure to prevent people from voting twice was easily washable, party workers continued to campaign on Election Day, and various reports of phantom voters persists. While many observers have reminded the Malaysian public that the Election Commission must not be blamed in full for the shortcomings in the electoral process, many still question its credibility, which has in turn put the result of the election in question.
Despite this, brave young Malaysians saw this election as a new beginning for Malaysian politics.
When interviewed, a young voter said: “Leading up to the GE13, in my mind, I did not think the opposition would win. While I felt that they could win more seats in the parliament, I had a feeling that they would not be able to get the seats needed to form a government. And because it wasn’t a change in government, it is currently being viewed as a total loss, especially by the younger generation of voters. With the result of this general election, the government has a lot more work to do to convince the public that they deserve to be in power. As part of the younger generation of Malaysia, I do hope for better transparency and fairness on the elections and the voting process and information that is being put forward from it. There should be more equality between incumbent and opposition parties, in terms of freedom of speech and expression and rights to a fair campaign especially in the press and media. These are all being championed by Pakatan Rakyat with the help of the Bersih movement. I do want to see this change happen, and I believe that our aspirations will be carried on beyond this elections.”
One thing was clear: the real winner in the Malaysia’s 13th general elections is the people. They have firmly entrenched a two-coalition system in the country and have given the opposition votes that would enable them to solidify their partnership and play a meaningful check and balance role in the parliament. More importantly, the voters have decided to end the days where Barisan Nasional enjoyed unfettered power. The younger generation of voters have stood up, and are showing that their voices are equally as important and that they carry weight no matter where, who, and how old they are. And if this trend continues we can look forward to a better Malaysia.
Amir Shariff is The Asia Foundation’s senior program officer in Malaysia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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