By Wan Saiful Wan Jan,The Edge, 6 November 2010

Election is a very important component on democracy. But merely having an election is not everything. For the country to be a true democracy, we need the liberal democratic institutions to function properly.

We need an independent judiciary, rule of law, free press, and proper check and balances of the executive powers. More importantly, the public needs to play their role too by voting responsibly.

Unfortunately, elections in Malaysia are riddled with corruption and abuse of power. Briberies abound everywhere, and they are so blatant. Just look at the recent by-elections. Publicly, voters were offered RM250 to pay for their “expenses” to vote. There were even promises of a mosque and a housing project. What are these if not election bribes?

Yes, even the promises of “development” can some times be taken as bribery. Development is the responsibility of the government of the day, be it the federal or state government. It is not something that is delivered only when your party wins that constituency.

In developing the country, the government, be it federal or state government, should treat everyone the same, regardless of their political believes. Only then the government can be said to respect the choices made by the people.

But in our elections today, you hear politicians and political parties saying that only if people vote for a particular party will the authorities do something to help them. In other words, “vote for me and I will pay you back.” This is not just wrong. It is also corrupt.

The federal government acknowledges that corruption is a problem in Malaysia. Hence the inclusion of fighting corruption as one of the six NKRAs in the Government Transformation Programme.

But when it comes to corruption and bribery during elections, we cannot put the blame squarely on the shoulders of our politicians alone.

I once saw an MACC poster that says “Don’t give. Don’t take”. This is very true. There are always two parties in all acts of corruption, including election bribery.

On the one side are those who offer bribes like paying RM250 for voting expenses, building a mosques, housing projects, paying for expenses, and the likes. Usually they are the politicians.

On the other side are those who celebrate the offer of these bribes, and gleefully receive the bribes. These are the voters.

This assertion may make unpopular, but, I would venture to say that perhaps, just perhaps, when it comes to election bribery, the voters are more to blame than politicians.

The principle behind this is quite simply one of supply and demand. For corruption to happen, including during elections, there would be no offer of bribery if there was no demand for it.

In 2007, I was a Conservative Party candidate in the English local elections. My agent was very explicit about the rules. Never offer my voters a ride in my car, and never offer to buy my voters a drink. We had to be very cautious.

But that caution was not primarily driven by fear of the law. The real motivation was the fear that these gestures could be misconstrued as a bribe. If voters mistakenly assumed that I was bribing them for votes, just by offering them a ride or a drink, they would turn their back on us. I would have lost their votes, no mater how pure my intentions were. Voters attitude there were very different indeed.

But when I visited Batu Sapi last week, it was palpable that some voters expect, even hope, politicians would bribe them. A few that I met were excited that an election was happening. They knew free rice and plenty of donations are on the way to them. Some said that they would travel to as many campaign rallies as possible because that’s where they expect the election goodies to be distributed.

I really hope I am wrong but I suspect the same attitude in Galas. In fact, I suspect this attitude is prevalent among some voters across the country.

If we are serious about tackling corruption, of course we must strengthen the MACC and ensure that those in positions of power are not corrupt. But it is equally important to educate the public about this matter.

As voters, we must change our attitude. We cannot blame politicians for all the corruptions and briberies, for without demands, there would be no supply. We, voters, must take some responsibility too.

The problem of election corruption can only be solved if we, the voters, change our attitude. The next time a politician shout “I want to make a deal with you. You help me, I help you”, we must not clap our hands in gratitude. Instead we the voters must avoid them like the plague.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (

image credit :


  • Nonoy Oplas 2010 Nov 10 / 18:22

    Almost similar practices and experience in Philippine elections!

  • AgreeToDisagree 2010 Nov 25 / 04:46

    No oligarchy/nepotism and TERM LIMITS (no more decades long MPs in 3rd Force or careerist politicians – do your best 2 terms then get the hell out or advise from the backgroound) will prevent any dr.Evils or family blocs in the future. These are 3rd Force rules and more ex-MP members among party members will make for a stronger party culture as well to avoid gravitating towards cults of personality in what after all is public domain.

    IDEAS’ belief that the principles of :

    1) Rule of Law (Kedaulatan Undang-Undang)
    – IPCMC implemented
    – Emergency Laws suspending Local Council Elections re-installed
    – Removal of ISA

    2) Limited Government (Kerajaan Terhad)
    – Term Limits on MPs
    – Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism
    – Longer Licensing/Renewal Periods (so less red tape, less workload for government employees, less time spent travelling)

    3) Free Markets (Pasaran Bebas), and
    – Vehicular-AP system
    – Toll Concessionaires

    4) Free Individuals (Individu Merdeka), are deeply rooted in our nation’s tradition and heritage.
    – Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.
    – Volunteerisation of Forced Military Conscriptions
    – Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.

    Then try the below :

    Third Force (Malaysian Green Party)

    1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism
    2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.
    3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.

    The above group is just in case Haris/RPK themselves are also trojans (I’d say a clique of closet elitists distancing themselves from the iteneratnt bloggers via moderation to oblibvion of comments – but only THIS CRIME against humanity so far). We as citizens can’t trust any political parties (even NGOs) and have to run as independents if needed.

    Until they prove to be trojans though, I consider MCLM’s 3rd Force viable and a foil to hide behind till they foul up big if ever . . . The real 3rd Force is always the NEUTRAL citizen, no one else with any agenda whatsoever. Who knows they might grant everything suggested !

    Apart from the above 3 items we neutral citizens need to :

    Disallow ANY Oligarchy/Nepotism
    End/Buy-Up Toll Concessions
    End Forced Military Conscriptions
    End Vehicular-APs
    Block VAT / Block GST
    Lower Election Deposits from 15,000 to 15.00 (so everyone can join and not be prevented by this plutocratic deterrence the poorest man has a right to join and 15,000 is prohibitive, must be lowered to allow the poorest)

    Then study the below as well for good measure :


    USA, UK and Malaysia, are representative democracies (2nd class version) and thus not truly open systems being limited to the whims and fancies of parliamentarians alone.

    *Participatory Democracy* (1st class version) is a process emphasizing the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems not in isolation of populist political groups but inclusive of academic and bureaucratic groups.

    *Participatory Democracy* avoids the concept of the people having a single view with the inevitable limitations that come from trying to agree what that view is.

    Government is heavily decentralized into smaller independent groups to allow personalized preferences within groups to be expressed in a functional manner PREFERRED by each particular group.

    The system seeks to avoid problems with centralized and electoral governance, while still providing a stable democratic system and ensuring all forms of human expression especially those diametrically opposed to be allowed expression. For example theocrat moralists / and sin industries (adult or gambling) can all be represented and functional even while proponents within each group do not use or believe in the other.

    All expressions of humanity thus will have their own place, albeit in a highly separated manner. Try the below related links for articles/discussions on Participative Democracy :

    Shadow cabinet Thursday, October 14, 2010 (Ktemoc) Authoritarianism vs. Seperation of Powers and Complacency of Citizens

    Unsuitable to Vote : Individuals Causing Notable Conflict of Interest in Local Council Elections – Original Article 6th

    The column that wasn’t – Marina Mahathir – 3rd March 2010

    Also these charts to prevent conflict of interest / vested interest :


    All the above should be 3rd Force Agenda. Any further thoughts and ideas? Remember that we are all leaders, that all citizens are equal in a modern democracy. The 3rd Force method will be to present a governance paradigm so transparent and attractive and protective of the Rakyat that everyone would vote for 3rd Force.

    MCLM of course can take up the above, which means I will not need to form anything to implement the above, but someone has to address the inclination towards ‘Elegant Silence’ or at least ‘Harmful Delays’. If they turn trojan on us, then we NEUTRAL 3rd Forcers must be very prepared to run on our own with whatever little resources or knowledge compounded by sheer lack of ethos (or lack of infamy/infamy) we have.

    Finally this series of events below, where DAP looks like it’s standards are slipping and all the below abuses are ISA-like in nature though not readily apparent until applied :

    DAP’s democracy in Penang (Tuesday, November 16, 2010) (read commentaries and be aware that Aliran fettes DAP rather than be neutral)

    Compensation for Rep’s Kin – by Sunday Star – 18th APR 2010

    The Gambier Threat – Mid 2010

    Invasive By-Laws Against Sovereignty of Title/Land Owners

    Be prepared readers, for like Aliran which failed to highlight or even suggest a re-election, MCLM could turn out to be an exercise in self promotion that leads nowhere! Joining Pakatan Rayat to cure it or setting up an Independent’s group could be the other option if nothing materialises but then again, true colours would be revealed by GE13 . . .

    Meanwhile Zaid’s 3rd Force (not necessarily the same as MCLM???) looks good as any existing party. At least Zaid exhorts ideals. All the commentators here, how about getting off the armchairs and getting in touch with Zaid? He certainly needs help and we could also set the tone for a better political party.

    LOTS of ideas . . .

Leave a comment