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Insights and Analysis

A New Beginning for Malaysian Politics?

May 8, 2013

By Amir Shariff

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.

Malaysia Elections 2013

After a violent campaign period, Malaysians headed to the polls to elect the 7th prime minister. Photo/Flickr user alanalew

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 [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

Related locations: Malaysia
Related programs: Elections
Related topics: Corruption, Human Rights, Transparency


  1. Dear Amir,

    For once I totatlly disagreed with your comment on the question of doubtful election. I do believed that the election is an honest and just like the westminister Democracy first for post policy that has been adopted by the malaysian since the independence from the British.The issue of indellible ink is just a ploy by dissatisfied loser in a fair contest. First and foremost The Bersih movements that wanted the indellible ink and now they question it?There is no proof of these and further this is not the only means to prevent twice voting infact there are two or three more measures that will prevent ghost voter or twice voting for that matter.Even the opposition party is present in each of voting center .The Bersih movement is a movement that is initiated just to question the SPR in order to create chaos in the country. Infact Bersih is not needed at all siince the unsatisfied voters can always use the legal means in21 days to lodge a report protected under the law. As far as i and the general public is concern this election is fair since the opposition had won in three states formed a government the next day after election as this shown that they acknowledged the fair election. If they do not acknowledge the General Election why do they complain on the states that they do not win? while the system of election is the same all over the country. The bersih movement will always cry foul even the election is fair and just.They r a pathetic movement

  2. however I do agree with you that the young voters will decide the future of the country. I think the current Government should address more the young voters in the cyberspace.Since the young voters nowadays do not use the mainstream media and usually depend on the social media that usually the news is not verifiable and sometime misused the media to create hatred for the system of democracy in Malaysia. I feel very sad that the young voters nowadays lacked the historical knowledge especially the one from the vernacular school who do not and dont want to learn the basis of our nation and how we can build our nation to achieve the harmony and development.I think its the time for us Malaysian to have one school system so that there is no more race based politics as well as religion based politics and HISTORY AND PERLEMBAGAAN AND RUKUN NEGARA is uphold no matter who win the GE

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