Friday, July 12, 2013

Perak’s Stolen Election: The Second Time Round

Perak’s Stolen Election: The Second Time Round

Koon Yew Yin
10th July 2013

Many Malaysians are aware of the first time when the people of Perak had their state election results in which they had chosen the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition to govern the state overturned by trickery and deceit. At that time in 2009, three state legislators elected on PR tickets defected to the Barisan Nasional (BN) in a move which was masterminded by the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, as head of Perak’s BN.

Subsequently, the Sultan of Perak refused Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s request to dissolve the state assembly and call for new elections. Instead, Barisan Nasional (BN), with support from the three defecting assemblymen, formed the new – and in the minds of Perakians – illegitimate state government.

Close State Election Results Favoured BN 

In the recent 2013 elections, history has repeated itself. This time the election appears to have been stolen with more conventional methods. According to the official tally, BN won 31 seats to the PR’s 28 in a closely contested race. But on close analysis of the results, we find that BN won 8 of the state seats (and 2 parliamentary ones) with wafer thin majorities. State seats that BN candidates won with very small margins can be seen from the table below

State Seat Total Votes Cast Winning Margin of BN Candidate BN % of Votes Obtained
Selama 13,089 619 52.3
Kamunting 22,681 887 51.9
Lubok Merbau 12,469 53 50.2
Manjoi 42,890 132 50.1
Manong 14,579 231 50.8
Pasir Panjang 30,247 30 50.1
Rungkup 12,217 613 52.5
Changkat Jong 23,271 1,118 51.8   
Winning by small margins is not unique to BN candidates. A small number of PR candidates also squeaked through by small margins. But the large number of narrow victories by BN candidates – not only in Perak but throughout the country – in our colonial-inspired electoral system of first past the post winner has raised alarm bells among election watchers.

Cheating in Elections
There is general agreement that cheating at the electoral booth can influence outcomes in close races. Such cheating takes many forms. Some of the major ways include:
1. Tampering of the electoral rolls including registering foreign nationals as registered voters; individuals registered doubly as regular and postal voters; phantom voters;
2. Biased and unreliable counting and tallying practices
3. Questionable postal votes
4. Dirty tactics of election officials aimed at favouring one candidate or party.
Given the well-known bias of the Election Commission towards the BN, its lack of independence and its inability to implement even the most basic of measures to cut down on electoral fraud through the use of indelible ink, it is not surprising that the BN, especially UMNO, has been able to win the majority of closely contested seats.

BM1 Programme Targeted at Voters

Besides these forms of cheating at local level, other more sophisticated forms of influencing the election outcome were practiced on a nation-wide scale. One of these election abuses in 2013 included the paying out of monetary inducements under the BM1 programme. This can be regarded as equivalent to general bribery and should have constituted an offence under section 32(a) of the Election Offences Act 1954.

The way in which the BM programme was disbursed was clearly with the specific purpose of influencing the election outcome as applicants were required specific details of his/her State, his/her parliamentary constituency, and state constituency in which each applicant intended to vote.

Once the application was ‘approved’, the applicant was given either a letter or an SMS, setting out the place where the monies were to be collected. A chit was attached to the letter, stating ‘’BR1M 2.0, Penyampaian Parliamen/DUN” followed by the name of the parliamentary or state constituency.

On the right hand side of the chit was the logo of the distributing body. Under that was a description of the BN body, organization or committee that coordinated this payment. This was indicated by the words, ‘Pusat khidmat masyarakat’, accompanied by a row of symbols representing the Barisan Nasional parties, UMNO and the words ‘Barisan Nasional, followed by the name of the constituency area.

Text messages were also sent confirming the approval, indicating where the monies could be collected. Government departments handed out the monies. Other bodies that distributed the BR1M monies included the Jawatan Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung (‘JKKK’) which in Perak was dominated by UMNO members.

The primary target of BR1M was the voters in each constituency, whether that was a state or parliamentary constituency. The message that BN sent out through BR1M was that in return for payments under, the recipients ought to vote for BN candidates. One can see from this procedure how simple minded kampong folk were “persuaded” to cast their votes in favour of UMNO and BN. If this does not constitute election abuse, then we will have to completely redefine the meaning of the word “abuse”.

PAS: Taking Up the Fight against the State Election Results 

It is gratifying to note that PAS has decided to mount a legal challenge to the state election results in at least 6 state constituencies. These cases may take some time to be resolved and the judiciary perceived by many as influenced by BN, may result in PAS ending up on the losing side.

It could also be that PAS may end up with judgements that support its case. This possibility may seem quite remote but given the new found courage and independence of the judiciary, one should not discount that happening. In such a situation, and if new elections are called for (not necessarily in the six disputed seats, three alone would be sufficient) I am confident that the voters in these constituencies – with the eyes of the nation on them – will vote overwhelmingly for the PR and against the BN candidate. A swing of just two seats against the BN will then produce a PR state government. The impact will not just be in Perak. I predict that this will mark the beginning of the end of BN rule in the country.

Fraudulent and unethical election practices

Finally, whichever way the judgements go, it is still important and necessary to educate the public – both Perak and Malaysian – on the way in which the BN has engaged in various fraudulent and unethical election practices to maintain itself in power. At the very least, PAS will have the full support of the 613,490 voters (55% of the total electorate voted for PR state candidates in 2013) who know that the elections were stolen from them and who will want justice to be done.

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