Awakening the young voters
ANALYSIS By BARADAN KUPPUSAMYPakatan Rakyat is seeking to keep the rally’s momentum going, hoping that it can be sustained until an early general election is held.
NOW that the Bersih 2.0 rally is over, what’s in store for the divided politics of the nation? It’s a question on the minds of many Malaysians.
The Bersih 2.0 rally was a success by some measure because Pakatan Rakyat supporters braved police restrictions, roadblocks and barbed wire to gather in the city centre calling on the Government to institute electoral reform.
Their eight-point demand included issues that the opposition had been campaigning on for many years, like a clean electoral roll, reforming postal voting and a minimum of 21 days for campaigning.
These are fundamentals of a basic election system in a democratic society and few citizens would find this objectionable.
Saturday’s rally, therefore, had an unprecedented impact on society at large and on the election system, comparable to the March 8 political tsunami.
While Saturday’s rally was smaller in size compared to Bersih’s first rally in November 2007, the effects were the same – the awakening of young people to political action to rally for a basic right in defiance of the police.
In 2007, Bersih had the run of the city with huge numbers converging on the Istana to deliver a memorandum to the King.
Anwar called the 2007 Bersih rally an unqualified success.
Three months later, a general election was called that saw a loose coalition, that later became Pakatan Rakyat, winning five state governments and denying Barisan Nasional a two-thirds majority.
This time, too, Anwar is expecting an early election, probably by the fourth quarter of this year to capitalise on the Bersih 2.0 momentum.
709 pictures of the BERSIH march. Malaysians unite!
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By PR’s reckoning, Bersih 2.0 was a major success and big enough to wipe out the series of by-election losses they suffered in recent months and the spate of defections from PKR to BN.
The internal turmoil caused by PKR’s direct elections that also saw many people disheartened with PKR has also been eclipsed.
PR sought to keep its Bersih 2.0 momentum going by organising a large rally in Penang, a PR state, on Monday that was well-attended.
It is hoping that the momentum would be sustained until an early general election is held.
It needs to step up its criticism of BN, organise more Bersih rallies in other states and perhaps take nationwide action to keep the momentum going.
For this reason alone, it is unlikely that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would call an election this year.
He has to put some distance between the Government and the effects of the Bersih 2.0 rally.
Another reason for Najib to delay the general election is the urban voters whose preference is still with the opposition. He has to come up with imaginative programmes to win over the urban voters whose concerns are very different from the rural electorate.
Najib is also due to meet the Pope next week and hopes to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican. He hopes to consolidate the Christian vote, which accounts for about 9% of the 14 million voters.
On another point, Bersih 2.0 leaders like Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan tried hard to convince Malaysians that her organisation was an independent body and was acting independently.
It is, however, abundantly clear that Bersih 2.0 was an opposition affair from start to finish.
The police handling of the Bersih 2.0 rally is also under the spotlight. Although they were heavy-handed, there was a relative absence of violence except for one death of a PKR activist that was attributed to a heart condition.
The low level of violence as a whole also limited the electoral backlash against the Government.
Therefore, it is an opportune time to release all those arrested, including the six leaders of Parti Sosialis Malaysia who have been detained under the Emergency Ordinance for allegedly reviving communism.
The Bersih 2.0 rally did not come anywhere near those in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria. But it will probably have an impact in the coming general election.
The rally proved its point that a large number of Malaysians can gather, despite police action, and march peacefully.
But Bersih 2.0 is unlikely to be a game changer in the way the first Bersih rally was.
Registration easy & simple
By SHAHANAAZ HABIB and RASHVINJEET S. BEDI firstname.lastname@example.orgPUTRAJAYA: Voter registration numbers have gone up significantly, thanks to efforts by political parties.
But some 40% of the new voters they have registered turned out to be ineligible.
“Some are dead, underage or already registered voters,” said Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof.
“We verify with the National Registration Department (NRD) those who are genuine and get rid of the names of those who are not. This makes it tiring because we have to keep checking,” he told The Star.
Despite this, he said, political parties still registered the highest number, bringing in more half of the new eligible voters.
“Compared to universities and NGOs, the voters we get from political parties are a lot more,” he said.
For May alone, 52% of new eligible voters were registered by political parties.
Twenty per cent were registered through post offices and 13% by government departments.
The EC, meanwhile, roped in 10% of the new voters through its counters and outreach programme. Universities and NGOs helped to register 3% and 2% new voters respectively.
Abdul Aziz added that the EC had appointed political parties, NGOs and universities as assistant registrars to help register new voters, paying RM1 for every clean and confirmed new voter these organisations bring in.
“If they register 1,000 new voters and only 600 are genuine, we pay them RM600,” he said. Between 2008 and 2009, there were 10 million registered voters in the country and another 4.3 million eligible voters who were not registered.
This year, the total number of registered voters increased to 12 million and eligible unregistered voters dropped to 3.7 million.
“We have made registration easy and simple. You can go to the post office, youth bodies, universities, colleges, government departments, NGOs and political parties to register,” he added.
Abdul Aziz said the Malaysian EC was the only one in the world that appointed political parties to assist in registering new voters.
He pointed out that it made sense to rope in political parties. “We appoint an average of two assistant registrars for each state seat. And because they have an interest, they work very hard to register new voters.
“When we do the voter registration ourselves, the response is not very good. We go to events like TV3's Jom Heboh to register new voters but it is difficult for people to come forward.
“This has to do with attitude. People ask what benefit they get by registering as voters. Some people do not have the spirit. They ask what happens if they don't register and when they find out no action is taken, they leave it as it is. Only those who really love the country and would like to choose their own leaders would voluntarily go and register as voters.”
Abdul Aziz also advised the people to vote in their current place of residence as this was stipulated in the law. This would also resolve the issue of phantom voters, where voters allegedly stay in a different place from where they cast their vote.
He said people should not feel attachment to their hometown and balik kampung to cast their votes.
“If I stay in Shah Alam, I shouldn't go back to Penang or my hometown to vote,” he said.
He estimated that about 30% to 40% of Malaysians voted in a different place or state than where they lived.
“I have no power to force them to vote where they live. I can only explain and persuade them,” he added.