A Malaysian coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has confirmed holding a rally for free and fair elections this April 28, in what is seen as an attempt to put higher pressure on the federal government ahead of a widely anticipated general election.
According to the Malaysian Insider, the coalition, known as Bersih 2.0, would be holding its third rally — this time a sit-in protest — demanding electoral reforms that would include postal voting, a longer campaigning period of 21 days and free and fair access to media.
The demonstration is also expected to be held simultaneously across the country, and also other parts of the world. During the previous rally in July last year, the elections watchdog group claimed that 50,000 people had turned up at the streets of Kuala Lumpur in support of the rally, while smaller ones were held in various parts of the world including Melbourne, Hong Kong and London.
The coming rally is seen to be a response to the recent release of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report to lawmakers outlining 22 recommendations for reforming the electoral process, as well as claims of electoral fraud in the country.
Among the key recommendations included were that the Election Commission should work toward automatically registering citizens who turn 21 as voters, a longer campaigning period of at least 10 days before general election instead of just seven days and allowing Malaysians residing overseas to vote earlier at Malaysian embassies or via postal voting.
Nevertheless, NGOs have expressed disappointment over the recommendations as there were no specific reccomendations to clean up the electoral process. The National Institute for Electoral Integrity said while key issues pertaining to the voter registration process and the electoral role have been noted, the report lacks specific short-term recommendations to address the key concerns that the very same committee has raised in the report.
After the rally in July last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his administration suffered dents in image, following criticism from neighboring countries and international human rights groups over how the rally was handled.
Since then, Najib had attemped to reform several of the the country’s policies, including setting up a PSC on the electoral process and announced that the federal government would abolish the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial.