Malaysia’s general elections returned the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to power with a weak mandate and the potential for political instability in the weeks ahead.
The opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim has questioned the integrity of Sunday’s result and has refused to concede defeat until investigations are conducted into numerous reported irregularities.
On polling day, social media was abuzz with alerts, photographs and videos that showed the indelible ink used to prevent voters from casting more than one ballot was easily washed away. Other reports indicated that busloads of people believed to be nationals of other countries had cast votes. There were also widespread allegations of vote-buying.
Bersih, a civil society coalition campaigning for electoral reforms, withheld its recognition of the polls and has not yet indicated whether it would protest the result. The activist coalition has held three mass rallies, including a demonstration in April that drew by some estimates 200,000 people, against an electoral system it believes is rigged in BN’s and its main component United Malay Nasional Organization (UMNO) party’s favor. Anwar on Tuesday urged opposition supporters to protest the result.
There could be significant grass roots support for a follow-up rally. A petition on the website change.org appealing to the United Nations to investigate electoral fraud allegations had gone viral online with more than 200,000 signatures as of Tuesday. So far Anwar has called on PR supporters to remain calm while investigations are ongoing.