It’s a tough day for Malaysians who voted for change; those who had hoped that the opposition three-party Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) would beat all odds and defeat Barisan Nasional (the National Front), who have been in power for nearly 56 years.
It’s clear that BN engaged in massive fraud and manipulation. It is believed that up to 600,000 foreign citizens were ferried in to polling stations to vote for BN.
In a petition launched on change.org today, citizens called for a UN investigation into the election outcome.
Thousands of opposition supporters swapped their Facebook profile photos for black boxes to show their dismay at the result.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim rejected the result as “fraudulent”. He accused the coalition of flying up to 40,000 “dubious” voters across the country to vote in close races. The government claimed it was merely helping voters get to home towns to vote.
BN won 133 seats in the 222-member parliament, well short of the two-thirds majority it achieved in 2008.The opposition won 89 seats as compared with 82 in 2008.
Unconfirmed reports suggested that the BN coalition did not receive a majority of the popular vote.
Ethnic Chinese, who make up a quarter of Malaysians, continued to desert BN, and support from the majority ethnic Malays also weakened.
BN, however, always had the upper hand, giving out hundreds of millions of dollars in social handouts ahead of the election, and wielding control over the national media.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is now under pressure from BN conservatives because he didn’t deliver a stronger majority; he could be forced to step down by the end of the year. Yesterday’s election result was the worst ever for BN.
In an inflammatory comment, Najib has blamed the “Chinese tsunami” for his reduced majority.
In a column for the independent news website Malaysiakini, petroleum chemist Mariam Mokhtar, who describes herself as a non-conformist traditionalist, called on the electoral commission to investigate the allegations of voting irregularities.
“BN stole the votes of the rakyat (people) and the future of the country,” she wrote. “When Malaysians voted yesterday, they wanted a change for themselves, but more so for their children and future generations. They despise corrupt politicians, but they are also weary of the inappropriate behaviour of the children of these politicians.”
One commentator on Mokhtar’s article said the BN would continue to cheat because they were 100 % sure they could get away with it. “All the major institutions are in their pocket. The Opposition and bloggers can lament and cry, but nothing will change … Younger Malaysians will now contemplate migration, to get away from this Mafia State.”
This is a “sad, sad day for Malaysia,” said one commentator, whilst another urged Malaysians not to give up.
One young Malaysian said on Twitter that she felt a mixture of extreme anger, hatred, disappointment, shame, and helplessness.
The BBC’s Jonathan Head said the result was a bitter blow to the opposition coalition after a spirited campaign that tapped into a hunger for change among many younger Malaysians.
“They had believed a surge of support, especially in urban areas, would be enough to unseat a ruling coalition that has been in government for more than half a century.”
Anwar appealed to his supporters to voice their protests clearly and loudly, but to maintain calm.
PR plans to contest as many as 30 seats that it lost by narrow margins and is examining the avenues for doing this.
The electoral commission has denied several of the vote-rigging allegations that have been made today, but its own reputation is already tarnished and Malaysians would not look to it to be a force for justice.
Foreign policy consultant Dennis Ignatius, who worked for 36 years in the Malaysian foreign service, writes in his blog that the commission has been “thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public for the partisan way it is discharging its responsibilities”.
In his analysis on the eve of the election, Ignatuis wrote that Malaysia had descended into a culture of corruption, abuse of power, and misgovernance.
“Transparency International ranked Malaysia as the most corrupt country in the world to do business,” he stated. “And, according to US-based Global Financial Integrity, Malaysia ranked second in the world, after China, in terms of the outflow of illicit funds. Over the last ten years alone, more than 285 billion US dollars has been transferred out of the country illegally, a staggering indication of the plunder that is taking place.”
Big business welcomed the BN’s return to power. The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index jumped 6.8% to a lifetime high of 1,808.90 in early trading today and the local currency, the ringgit, hit a 10-month high.