Anwar Ibrahim on Free & Fair Malaysian Election
Malaysia’s 13th General Elections
By Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition Leader
As the 13th general elections draw near, the will of the people hangs in the balance as the question of free and fair elections remains unanswered.
The right to such a process is recognised in all democracies. Three conditions must be fulfilled: an independent audit of the electoral roll, a minimum campaign period of reasonable duration, and allowing international observers at polling stations.
The Najib administration’s action last week in detaining and deporting Australian senator Nick Xenophon who was in Kuala Lumpur to meet with me as well as leaders of the ruling party to discuss ways and means to meet those conditions has rendered the demand for free and fair elections an exercise in futility.
Meanwhile, the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat remains severely disadvantaged in campaigning. There is no access to the mainstream print and electronic media which, despite being largely funded by tax payers’ money, are used as a propaganda machine in ways not seen since the time of Goebbels: vicious lies are spread about the opposition’s mismanagement of the state governments, characters of key opposition leaders are assassinated and a movie is set to be screened nation-wide calculated undoubtedly to sow hostility and hatred among the indigenous Malay community towards ethnic minorities particularly the Chinese.
So we resort to self-help to travel the land and take the message home directly to the people. But where’s the right to security on our lives and property? Campaign buses and cars get pelted with stones and splashed with paint. Speakers are attacked and some supporters were knifed, violent acts caught on camera.
To ensure free and fair elections, there must be protection of the law, but complaints to the police fall on deaf ears. The Home Affairs Minister tells the media that he can’t guarantee our safety. Yes, this is the same man who issued the ban order on Senator Xenophon and then proclaimed that this was a routine matter. Labelling a visiting law maker from a friendly country “a security threat” and “an enemy of the state” is a routine matter?
Meanwhile, the veracity of electoral rolls remains unresolved with hundreds of thousand phantom votes in the list. In an on-going inquiry on citizenship-for-votes it was revealed that for the State of Sabah alone, more than 40,000 registered voters were on the highly suspect list. Other independent checks in other states have likewise revealed similar major discrepancies.
This is fraud perpetrated on a grand scale with the Elections Commission itself being culpable. Helmed by people who were card carrying members of the ruling UMNO party, a fact that had remained secret until it was exposed by independent watchdogs, how can anyone expect it to remain fair and impartial?
Complaints about the presence of significant numbers of phantom voters are ignored. The commission chair and deputy then go town to bash the opposition for ‘selling out’ the country’s sovereignty by calling for international observers. Right wing groups brand it as an act of treason. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has called for the co-chair of Bersih, our democracy reform Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, to be stripped of her citizenship.
Indeed, the test of free and fair elections is not merely allowing international observers but welcoming them with open arms because they lend credibility to the process as well as the outcome. If our elections are free and fair, what’s there to hide?
In this regard, Nick Xenophon as well as other international would be observers will no doubt be a threat but only to those who believe they are entitled to perpetual power. The fear of losing power haunts them making them desperate in action and in word. The left hand sometimes doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
And no one shows this up better than the Prime Minister himself. On the one hand, he invites the international media to cover his economic transformation programme and touts it as a decisive move towards democratic reform. He tops it up with visits overseas, Australia being one of the first on the itinerary. In Melbourne and in Sydney he spoke to local audiences about how genuine his government is in steering the country towards freedom and democracy. On the other hand, as the Xenophon debacle illustrates, his administration now decries ‘foreign interference in its internal affairs’ and declares that ‘outsiders must keep their hands off our electoral process.’
Well, Mr Prime Minister, you can’t have it both ways. First, you blew away millions of dollars of the tax payers’ money in travelling to other countries to promote your persona as an emerging reform-driven democratic leader. Then you tell law makers from those countries who are coming to verify the truth of what you have been saying that this is none of their business!
So, Nick Xenophon was indeed a ‘security’ risk but not to the Malaysian people. The only rationale for his expulsion is that he represents a serious threat to the UMNO government because of his advocacy for clean elections in Malaysia. But as I have said on day one of his arrest, Malaysia does not belong to UMNO. It belongs to all citizens regardless of their political affiliation.
Facile acts of reform done with much fanfare may help in the promotion of one’s persona. But it only takes one act of desperation to tear the veneer of hypocrisy and diabolical manoeuvring. To repeal the Internal Security Act only to replace with another law which gives the police even wider powers of detention is a classic example. Expelling a law maker on a mission for electoral reform is yet another. However, come polling day, despite the cheating and the fraud, we believe the people will triumph.
23rd Feb 2013