- The pandemic has strained and highlighted weaknesses in our democratic institutions.
- Elections have taken place but lessons will need to be learned from events in Sabah to ensure voting can remain safe for everyone.
- The functioning, independence and integrity of Parliament has also been eroded and there has not been adequate coordination between Federal and State governments in managing the crisis
- Minorities have also suffered, with poor treatment of vulnerable communities including refugees, foreign workers, undocumented migrants, essential service workers and prisoners.
- Covid-19 presents a chance for Malaysians to give deeper thought to the fundamentals of our democracy and to work even harder towards meaningful, inclusive and structural changes
Kuala Lumpur, 12 November 2020 –The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) just released its latest Brief IDEAS, “Covid-19 and Malaysia’s Democratic Resilience.” This paper argues that Malaysia’s democratic institutions have been tested in various ways ever since the pandemic struck in March this year. The paper highlights that election-management will need to be improved, Parliamentary proceedings have been compromised, federal-state government relations and coordination have worsened and the lack of transparency and accountability in procurement and financial disclosure has undermined confidence in the response to the crisis.
Furthermore, the pandemic has also revealed shortcomings in Malaysia’s treatment of vulnerable communities. “This was particularly evident within the refugee community, foreign workers, essential service workers and prisoners. For the latter group, long overdue prison reforms have been proposed by MPs and civil society organisations (CSOs) to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons. The paper also highlights the similarly poor conditions of Immigrant Detention Centres (IDCs) that compromise the health and safety of undocumented migrants,” comments Aira, Manager of the Democracy and Governance Unit.
Like many other countries, Malaysia has proceeded to conduct elections during Covid-19. The most recent was the state elections in Sabah that contributed to a significant spike in the number of cases, which continue today. “With speculation that General Elections might be conducted soon, we urge the Election Commission (EC) to work hand in hand with the Ministry of Health to ensure campaigning and voting can be conducted in the safest manner possible, without compromising Malaysians’ right to choose their leaders,” said Aira.
Preserving liberal democratic values during a pandemic is indeed challenging, but it is important to highlight that Malaysia’s institutions and norms have been under strain since before Covid-19 came to our shores. “The panel discussion at IDEAS’ Liberalism Conference on 9th November, titled “Liberal democracy in the era of political and pandemic plight” discussed how Malaysia’s democratic health must be restored by increasing the political literacy of young people, reforming our electoral system and turning politics into an honourable profession through both institutional and cultural change. The challenges posed by Covid-19 presents a chance for Malaysians to give deeper thought to the fundamentals of our democracy and to work even harder towards meaningful, inclusive and structural changes,” concludes Aira, who also moderated the panel.
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To download the paper log on to https://bit.ly/
The recording of the 5th Liberalism Conference can viewed at the following links
1st Panel (Budget 2021: Post Pandemic Recovery and Effectiveness of the Economic Stimulus) – LINK
2nd Panel (Social Protection in times of crisis) – LINK
3rd Panel (Liberal Democracy in the era of political and pandemic plight) – LINK
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