The outcome of Malaysia’s 13th General Election (GE13) is still contested. Some argue that since Pakatan Rakyat won the popular vote, Barisan Nasional therefore does not have the legitimacy to rule. But all political parties entered the election knowing that popular vote is not the deciding factor in a parliamentary system. Popular vote cannot be the basis to protest against the elected government, but it can be used to call for reform of the political system especially the electoral system.
Positing that a healthy democratic system is the best legacy we can pass to future generations, this paper takes the premise that there is now an opportunity to deepen democracy in Malaysia by moving on and focusing on issues that matter.
Democracy in Malaysia is a legacy to be cherished. Many developing countries have not been able to build strong democratic institutions. But we have these institutions today and we urgently need to strengthen them.
Reforming the electoral processes is a key step to deepen democracy in Malaysia. Creating a parliamentary committee to oversee the Election Commission (EC) may be a step in the right direction, but replacing the EC leadership with one that can command more public trust would be a much stronger step. Once that is done, it would be necessary to look into the unequal constituency apportionment, political financing, and press freedom. All are important to improve the
democratic election of a government.
The paper also discusses other important reforms to deepen democratic governance, such as the need to distribute power to other levels of government, strengthening the role of civil society and parliament in providing check and balance, creating healthy interaction between government and opposition, and ensuring positive relationship between the federal and state governments regardless of which party is in power.