Yes, Malaysia is a democracy but it is a fatally flawed democracy. Why? Because the election process is transparent, free and fair.
According to RPK of Malaysia-Today, the Malaysian election process is only transparent because the election commission is going to introduce transparent ballot boxes; it is only free because voters do not have to pay to vote (and in fact may get paid instead if they vote for a certain party); and it is only fair if you have failed either primary school math or basic ethics and therefore believe that 60% of the votes should rightly translate into 92% of the seats in parliament.
Here's what Malaysia-Today has posted:
And Malaysian elections are also fair. Barisan Nasional can garner 45% of the votes and still form the government. It can garner 55% of the votes and still rule with a two-thirds majority. It can garner 60% of the votes and still obtain 92% of the seats in Parliament. And this is what happened since 1969 until 2004. It can garner 70% of the votes and deny the opposition any seats in the spirit of pembangkang sifar or zero opposition. And this is what the ruling party hopes will happen come the next general election -- and they are working towards that even as you read this.According to Law Professor Azmi Sharom, as quoted by The Star and reproduced in Malaysia-Today:
And this is fair because this is a Malay country so we must make sure the Malays continue to retain political domination while the Chinese can retain economic domination and the Indians can retain… hmm… we have a problem with the Indians.
What many Malaysians do not realise is that ‘Malay’ seats come as low as 5,000 voters while ‘non-Malay’ seats are as high as 100,000 voters or more. This means even if 100,000 non-Malays vote for the opposition it will still be only one seat for the opposition while the same 100,000 ruling party voters will allow the ruling party four or five seats. That is why the ruling party needs only 45% of the votes to stay in power and 55% of the votes to rule with a two-thirds majority. This is called gerrymandering.
Furthermore, I can’t see the logic of having some large parliamentary seats with many voters and some tiny ones with very few.And it's true, you know. That's why the constituency of Putrajaya with it's 5,000 exclusively Malay civil servants and Bukit Bintang with it's 100,000+ predominantly urban Chinese middle class voters both send one MP each to parliament. There are many, many other examples like this, for eg. the entire city of Ipoh is only represented by merely 2 MPs while countless other 'districts' made up of a few sparsely populated kampungs get to send one MP each.
The division of constituencies is such that in the last general election, on average the ruling party needed 16,000 votes to get a seat while the opposition parties needed 180,000 votes for each of their seats.
Graham Brown, a Researcher at Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE), University of Oxford, in his paper "Playing the (non)ethnic card: The electoral system and ethnic voting patterns in Malaysia" (download a pdf of his paper here) comes to the conclusion that the Malaysian elections are overwhelmingly biased and fundamentally unfair. The following is the executive summary of his paper:
This paper examines the ethnic determinants of constituency delineations and voting patterns in West Malaysia over the past five general elections, paying particular attention to the ramifications of the 2002 redelineation exercise. I show that the 2002 redelineation exercise reduced markedly the ethnic bias of the electoral system yet increased the overall imbalance in constituency size. I then argue that the old electoral logic of small Malay-dominated rural constituencies, which tended to vote strongly for the Alliance/BN government (incumbent since Independence), and large Chinese-dominated urban constituencies, which tended to vote more for the opposition, has become increasingly irrelevant due to Malay urbanisation and shifting ethnic voting patterns. The paper thus concludes that the 2002 exercise represented the ‘correction’ of an increasing imbalance between the patterns of the government’s electoral support and constituency delineations. Ethnic bias in the electoral system was substantially replaced by a direct political bias in favour of the BN government.OK. All done and said, why is this important now?
Because (i) we all know the govt is going call an election soon, (ii) experts expect BN to suffer poll losses (Malaysiakini), AND (iii) the current Chairman of the Election Commission is due to retire on 31 Dec 2007! (ie. much too soon).
So what, you ask?
Well... the Chairman of the Election Commission has to be appointed by the Agung. And though the Agung has to take the PM's recommendation into consideration, at the end of the day, he is free to appoint whomever he thinks has the confidence of Malaysian citizens.
Add to that that on 20 Nov 2007, Minister in the PM’s Dept Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz tabled for first reading the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007 seeking to extend the retirement age of members of Election Commission (EC) from 65 to 66.
Go on... put 1 and 1 together. This is most certainly a reckless and blatant attempt to amend the constitution so as to retain the current Chairman until after the next general election (due to his awesome gerrymandering skills, no doubt) and guarantee the 'most favourable' election victory for BN (ie. UMNO).
And on a more holistic level, isn't our nation's constitution sacred? How can we allow it to be amended wantonly and indiscriminately at the short term, transient, immoral and unethical whims of the ruling BN?
You, Malaysians, must stand up for your country... for it is painfully obvious that the BN govt is hell bent on turning whatever little is left of our 50 year old democracy into an outright dictatorship!
More on this on Malaysians Unplugged Uncensored.