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Jakarta Post

Election scandal in Malaysia taints election integrity

  • Sri Murniati


Kuala Lumpur   /   Mon, April 15, 2019   /   03:19 pm
Election scandal in Malaysia taints election integrity Fiesta of democracy: Indonesians living in Malaysia have their documents checked at their embassy in Kuala Lumpur before casting their overseas ballots ahead of the country’s April 17 general election on Sunday. More than 190 million Indonesians are to cast ballots on Wednesday in one of the world’s biggest one-day elections, with some 2 million living overseas also registered to vote, including in Malaysia. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

The 2019 election is the second election for me outside Indonesia. Before then, I didn't think much about it because the percentage of permanent voters outside the country is too small compared to total number of voters in Indonesia. For 2019, it represents only 1 percent of the total voters.

The 2014 election outside the country was quite smooth and didn't attract much attention. But this year, the election organization in Malaysia made news due to the discovery of thousands of ballots marked for certain candidates in shop lots in Selangor three days before the polling took place.

Election organizers and supervisors moved fast by sending a team to Malaysia to investigate the suspected rigging. Unfortunately, until the polling took place on April 14, the team of the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) had not been able to access the evidence as the Royal Malaysian Police didn't allow them to access the incident area. The KPU-Bawaslu Team couldn't verify whether those marked papers were authentic or not.

The result of the investigation should have been made public before the election took place because it determines the integrity of election organizers here in Malaysia (PPLN Malaysia). If those ballot papers are authentic, then the integrity of the PPLN Malaysia is compromised, and the entire quality of the election process here becomes questionable.

But those who took this scandal lightly ignore the fact that voters in Malaysia represent a significant percentage of the Jakarta 2 electoral district which includes all voters in the diaspora. The total number of eligible votes of Jakarta 2 are almost 4.6 million comprising over 2.5 million in South and Central Jakarta; and a little over 2 are overseas voters. Of almost 4.6 million, 985,216 are eligible voters in Malaysia. That represents 21.5 percent of the total voters in Jakarta 2. Tainting the process involving almost a quarter of voters in Jakarta 2 will put the results into question.

Additionally, if reports are true regarding around 60,000 to 80,000 marked ballot papers, then those marked papers represent about 6 percent of the total ballot papers delivered by the KPU to PPLN Malaysia.

In the morning of April 14 2019, I almost decided to not exercise my rights in this election. But as I checked whether progress on the investigation has been made, I thought my earlier planned abstention or golput vote wouldn’t matter much. Instead I believe it is the vote that I exercised that will help shape Indonesia’s future. With a heavy heart, I decided to go to the polling station though knowing that the integrity of the result will not be as I had earlier expected.

I believe many Indonesians felt the same with me on the diaspora’s election day of April 14. Thus the election scandal in Malaysia should be taken seriously. The KPU-Bawaslu should announce the investigation result before April 17. The quality of the election process in Malaysia matters especially for the legitimacy of any candidate chosen to represent Jakarta 2.


The writer is a fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), a public policy think tank in Malaysia and PhD Candidate at the University of Nottingham Malaysia.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.