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Bangkok Post - democracy mockery
By web aNtu
7/12/1999 9:00 am Tue
Subject: Bangkok Post Dec4
A mockery of democracy
The BN's victory is not a moral one
(This editorial appeared on 4 Dec 1999 in the Bangkok
The win by 73-year-old Mahathir Mohamad's coalition Barisan Nasional in
Monday's Malaysian elections is a remarkable feat. Although the ruling
coalition dropped 20 seats and there was a big swing for the strict
Islamic opposition Parti Islam se Malaysia, for most outsiders the
result would seem to show Malaysians giving a resounding endorsement for
their leader Dr Mahathir. What is disappointing is that this
disparaging, anti-Western leader mocks the use of the word democracy
when referring to his country's general elections. His poll on Monday
was close to exactly the opposite of what democracy is all about, yet
the aged leader had the audacity to trumpet to the world his coalition's
"democratic" re-election as the governing power.
The Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Elections, which is led by the
esteemed Gen Saiyud Kerdphol, had a multi-national team of electoral
experts in Malaysia to peruse the election process. Its conclusion was
that the election was "anything but free and fair".
Under the Malaysian constitution, all those eligible to vote are
entitled to do so. But more than 680,000 young eligible voters were
denied their constitutional right to vote because they had not had their
names placed on the electoral roll by the electoral commission.
It is a fact that young people had turned out in great numbers to
support disgraced ex-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, and human
nature shows that young people tend to be more rebellious. Dr Mahathir
has never lost a chance to expound to the world his country's ability in
the field of technology, but somehow, the election commission was unable
to update its electoral roll to include young voters coming-of-age for
nine months leading up to the vote.
Illegal immigrants, long the bane of Malaysian society, suddenly found
themselves able to gain temporary ID cards after years of fruitless
attempts. But the ID cards came with a catch -- the recipients,
believed to number hundreds of thousands, had to vote for Barisan
Nasional. It is interesting that while the young eligible voters were
unable to get on the electoral rolls, the illegal aliens who'd just
received their Malaysian ID cards were.
This election also showed more clearly than ever before the extent to
which Dr Mahathir has taken control of the Malaysian media. His
coalition's propaganda dominated the news headlines during the nine-day
campaign. More than 1,000 full-page pro-Barisan Nasional advertisements
appeared in the local media. The opposition reported that most of their
advertisements were not accepted for publication but the few that were,
were heavily edited.
It virtually became impossible for the opposition to refute the
outlandish and, at times ridiculous, claims by the ruling coalition
while the opposition had to take solace in the Internet to put forward
their facts on widespread corruption and malpractice by the government.
Worried that the Chinese would leave the Barisan Nasional in force, much
of the campaign was targetted at scaring them into believing instability
would follow if the opposition coalition gained power. Using a strategy
of continual bombardment of blatant lies and scare-mongering, the
Chinese did take notice and they finally supported the ruling coalition.
The world's superpowers are quick to voice their disapproval of the
Burmese junta or of the Pakistan coup generals for being undemocratic.
They respond by putting in place economic sanctions in an effort to
force the return of democracy.
Admittedly in Malaysia, on the surface the majority of the populace have
supported and voted for the ruling coalition. But the totalitarianism
practised by Dr Mahathir in Malaysia is oppressive and dictatorial and
his perverse use of the word democracy should attract not plaudits, but