Academic consensus on unfair elections: Reinforcing the Case for BERSIH’s March


Many Malaysians may be unaware of the considerable research work by social scientists – both local and foreign – that have unequivocally concluded that the country’s record on free and fair elections has been abysmal. Analysis of this remarkable record of trickery, manipulation and gerrymandering by first the Alliance, followed by Barisan Nasional (BN), goes back for more than 50 years – in fact soon after the country received its independence.

Dishonest election conduct takes the following main forms:

  1. the manipulation of electoral boundaries or gerrymandering
  2. the vast disparity of voter numbers among the constituencies
  3. the contamination of electoral rolls with phantom voters and other fraud
  4. the grossly unfair use of the governmental machinery and resources in support of ruling party candidates
  5. impersonation, multiple voting, ballot stuffing and other frauds in polling, counting and tabulation
  6. the rigid and opaque postal voting system
  7. the short campaigning period and selective restriction on campaign freedom
  8. the biased and distorted official media coverage
  9. the inadequate and outdated regulations on election expenses and funding
  10. the ineffectiveness of or limitation in judicial remedy

Adding to the above is the impotency of the Electoral Commission. Lately, there has been an upsurge of political hooliganism which is increasingly coming from high levels and aimed at suppressing any expression of concern over the fair conduct of elections. Thus, it is not surprising that the leaders of the ruling party are confident BN will remain in power – by hook or by crook – for the next 50 years.

Malaysians interested in how the ruling parties have manipulated the electoral process to their advantage are spoilt for choice in the matter of reading material. Reference to the work of any of the following scholars will provide facts and figures on the truth behind the facade of ‘democratic’ elections in the country. Among them are: Sothi Rachagan, Mavis Puthucheary, Noraini Othman, Lim Hong Hai, Wong Chin Huat, Harold Crouch, James Jesudason, John Funston, Rainer Heufers, Bridget Welsh, Ong Kian Meng, Mustafa K. Anuar, James Chin, William Case, Francis Loh Kok Wah, Andrew Aeria, Dan Slater, Simon Barraclough, Gordon P. Means and Diane Mauzy.

A selection of excerpts from some recent published work is provided in the annex (see below).  

Unfortunately such accounts have been deliberately obliterated from national media coverage whilst the antics of Ibrahim Ali as well as diversionary issues are prominently broadcast and splashed in the papers. The commentaries of media sycophants focusing on the purported economic losses likely from traffic disruption (aren’t these columnists capable of finding better reasons to explain why the planned march should not take place!) are merely to hoodwink Malaysians whereas the more belligerent editorials resort to intimidation to discourage Bersih supporters marching.

Reading the independent and scholarly work on Malaysian elections should lead most in the country to conclude that the Bersih march has good reason to go ahead, if only to show to the rest of the world that BN’s claim of democratic elections has been one of the oldest – if not the oldest – lie in Malaysian politics.   

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