How far can a government go by stealing elections? The Egyptian revolution offer a good example: fraudulent election was held in on 28th Nov 2010, and popular protest started from Tahrir Square forced the resignation of 3-decades long strongman Hosni Mubarak from power on Feb 11th 2011-a mere 75 days! All dictatorial regimes should take note of this reality of people power that has been tagged `Arab Spring’ recently!
Hosni Mubarak’s game plan to steal elections have all the familiar ring to it in many similar countries-even Malaysia! Here are his tricks:
* maintain emergency laws which has outlived its original purpose; public’s civil liberty and human rights are curtailed-including detention without warrant and trial! Najib’s promise to repeal emergency laws has not been made with condition that the general elections will come only after the repeal of the laws!
* require publishing permit-so state or crony owned media are the only media in town!Malaysia has the printing press laws that do the similar tricks to muzzle the dissenters;
* restrict party registrations-so the Opposition parties had to run their candidates as independents; numerous parties had problems to get registration in Malaysia-is this purely coincidental?
* restrict nominations to candidates; Malaysia only allow 1 hour for nomination of candidates -even less than the weeks offered by Egypt!
* get non-National Democratic Party (Hosni’s party) candidates who won seats to hop over to NDP; In 2005 election the NDP only won 40% of the votes-but `frogging’ after the election helped it to finally gain 81% of the votes! Does it sound familiar after the frogging affairs in Perak that toppled the Opposition led state government?
* this is how a presiding officer/returning Officer in a 2010 election describe how NDP won an election in a polling station: voters are not allowed into the polling station by the police and/or thugs; before polling end some people in dark glasses enter the polling stations, mark all the ballot paper and stuff them into the ballot box! Due to such notoriety the voting rates of Egyptian elections had been very low-some put it as single digit, for many decades!
* some other tricks: get NDP members to jam up the voting queues ie they cast their votes and rejoin the queues to make it practically impossible for non-NDP voters to get to the front of the queues;
* they buy votes-some say the price per vote is about 300 Egyptian Pounds (US1.00=5Egyptian Pound);
* the Ministry of Interior/Police prepare most part of the election administration and only invite an ad hoc Election Commission to oversee the election months ahead of the poll; They ask the judges to supervise election at polling station level but sometimes exert violence on the judges and stole the ballot boxes! When non-independent election administrators are not enough to secure enough victories for NDP in 2005 they even sacked the judges from overseeing the 2010 elections! How much better is the Malaysian Election Commission helmed by pliant retiring civil servants?
* Hosni Mubarak ban international election observers -so do Malaysia!
* Hosni Mubarak require separate voter registration that disenfranchise big section of the citizens-so do Malaysia! It is not coincidental that after the revolution the country decided to allow automatic voter registration!
* Hosni Mubarak did not allow overseaas Egyptians to vote-so is Malaysia until recently!
So after the fraudulent election in 2010 where the Opposition Muslim Brotherhood failed to win even a single seat (they won 80 in 2005 elections) the run-off was boycotted. The simmering discontent of the public erupted on Jan 25th -and the rest is history! To be noted was: after the eruption of the Jan 25th Revolution the NDP supporters still did not see the things to come: they violently clashed with the protestors in Tahrir Square -but it only took 18 days for the protest to force Hosni Mubarak-the 1-man rule of 30 years (started in 1981), to resign! Not only that his corrupt party NDP was dissolved by a court order! The use of violence seems to be the sure final defense of a dictatorship-will it be avoided in Malaysia when change of power come to Malaysia one way or the other?
While the revolution in Tunisia played its role to inspire the Egyptian revolution the public anger was simmering after the huge election `win’ by Hosni Mubarak just less than 3 months before! A nearly similar example in South East Asia would be Suharto’s ouster after his election `landslide’!
Now you can see there are so many parallels between Egyptian electoral manipulations and the situation in Malaysia. Would it be surprising if there is a `Malaysian Spring’ coming up soon after another clean sweep by the 50 year old rule by a single party here? Bersih 2 march on July 9th may not be the last if the Malaysian election system is maintained in the current pre-Mubarak style!