Malaysiakini Letter

A correction and an afterword on 'What happened in GE13...'

Clive Kessler  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Two supplementary parts, if I may now put them on record, to my two-part GE13 retrospective - a correction and an ‘afterword’.

A correction

Owing to a ‘glitch’ in the GE13 database that I was using, I misstated the numbers of Umno’s overall representation in the Dewan Rakyat and its overwhelming preponderance in BN’s peninsular representation.

Somehow, the seats that Umno won in Labuan and East Malaysia were included with its peninsular  successes.

This error should not be allowed to stand uncorrected.

I originally suggested that Umno now holds 88 of 100 peninsular seats that were won by BN.

In fact, Umno now holds 74 of BN’s 86 peninsular seats, plus 14 more in Labuan and Sabah.

Interested readers should note the change in those numbers. I apologise for the error in my original account of the situation.

This change in numbers does not change the nature, or the basic force, of my overall argument about the increased domination of government ranks and parliament that Umno achieved at GE13, despite the decline in BN’s Dewan Rakyat representation from 140 to 133.

An afterword

Some readers have already asked why I have not mentioned alleged “vote rigging”, manipulation of the election process and the like in my discussion. They add that the analysis that I have provided will be incomplete, defective and misleading if it fails to address those questions.

My account given here of GE13 does not go into those matters.

It does not because so much of the immediate post-election analysis has been about, and indeed has been largely preoccupied with, precisely those questions.

I saw no need, and see no reason, to go over all that same ground once again here.

More, I chose to omit any discussion of that aspect because, after the continuing focus upon those issues in so much of the post-election commentary and analysis so far, it is now important, in my view, to shift attention to some other matters and some more deeply-seated dimensions of the complex GE13 experience.

But I am not insensitive to the importance of those matters.

For the record, I therefore append here to this discussion two paragraphs from the brief commentary on GE13 (‘Malaysia’s election result - no surprise to the knowledgeable’) that I wrote for ‘Asian Currents’:  

“... International press comment often seeks to highlight instances of government skulduggery on election day. Sharp practice clearly occurs, far too often. But Malaysian elections have never been a ‘level-playing field’. And, despite the growth of ‘new media’ that mitigate the government’s long-standing domination of the official media, in other ways things are now less level than ever.

“Yet attention needs to focus not on election-day malpractice but on the nature of the electoral system itself: on the delineation of boundaries and the distortions entailed by the ‘first past the post system’. More, it is not what the Election Commission may or may not do during the course of the election, whether it acts impartially or in a partisan fashion, that is of concern. Before it even begins to swing into action to arrange the polls, the EC is an inherently compromised and flawed body. It is a contradictory beast with a dual nature. It is the statutory body appointed to stage elections with due propriety; but it also operates - by requiring citizens to vote in specific ‘streams’ by age and ethnicity within every polling station - as the producer of a massive ‘national political demography’ database whose findings are not made available to the public or other political parties but which is developed as the primary strategic instrument of the ruling Umno party and its partners. So long as this remains the case, the EC will never be universally seen as impartial and will never enjoy sufficient public trust. It needs not simply to be reformed but replaced, root and branch.”

Related stories

What happened in GE13, and what now?

What happened in GE13, and what now? Part 2

CLIVE KESSLER is Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

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