During Malaysia’s recent 14th general election, the department of dirty tricks was busy. Great efforts was made to support the ruling government coalition by discourage a high voter turnout, silence criticism and other devious schemes.
In case you ever need help in thwarting the democratic process, you might want to take some notes on how to do it. Here are a list of things you could do.
Redraw the election boundaries in your favor even if it means including voters from areas which are not even geographically near each other. My own voting district saw the inclusion this election of an area which is about 10 km away. This would see the presumed addition of about 10,000 potential pro-government votes in the district that was won in the last election by the opposition by a 1,000 majority. Surprisingly, the opposition still won with an increased majority.
2. Voting Districts are not all equal.
Make pro-government voting districts very small and districts which are opposition strongholds very big. In this way, one pro-government area had only 6,000 voters while one opposition stronghold had 146,000 voters. This means that in the first case, the government only needs about 3,000 votes to win while in the second case, the opposition wins but it uses up more of its supporters’ votes. In fact, opposition candidate Tony Pua wins the Damansara parliamentary seat with 75% of the vote or a record supermajority of 107,000 votes.
3. Shorten the election campaign period
Give the opposition little time to campaign by giving the minimum possible campaign period of 10 days before election. Then also make the police require political parties to apply for permission to hold rallies at least 5 days ahead of the event.
4. Make the Opposition party and its candidates illegal.
The opposition formed a coalition but the registrar of societies refused to formally register the opposition coalition in time for the election. Some opposition candidates wishing to register as an election candidate were given wrong information about what they had to do and where and then told that they had missed the dateline for registration.
5. Stifle criticism and negative reports
First control all mainstream TV and radio stations. Next block many independent websites. Also introduce a Anti-Fake News law just before the elections, that is sufficiently vague about what would be considered false news and threaten to use it to imprison anyone who shares “fake news” on FB or social media.
6. Make it difficult for voters to get to their voting stations.
Have the election on a Wednesday which is a working day and in the middle of the week. Refuse to declare it a holiday to facilitate voters traveling to their hometowns to vote (this was finally overturned after public outcry). “Coincidentally”, have road works and immigration computer glitches cause delays of hours at border crossings to deter large number of voters working in countries like Singapore from returning to vote. Some people only managed the trip that normally takes only about 3-4 hours after repeatedly trying to cross over 3 days. Also get the airlines to cancel or delay flights bringing voters back to Malaysia in the 1-2 days leading up to the election.
7. Sabotage Postal Votes.
Voters working or studying overseas and who are eligible to vote are supposed to be sent the ballot forms with sufficient time for them to post it back to their voting centre. Instead, many did not receive it until it was too late to post or even courier them. For example, voters in Hong Kong only received their ballot papers on the morning of the election day itself, and they would have to find a way to send it to their voting station in Malaysia by 5 pm that day.
But, despite this dirty tactic, Malaysians overseas got organised and a global network of volunteers carried most of the votes back in time.
8. Tamper with electoral rolls.
Some people who had not registered to vote were surprised that somebody had registered in their name and voted. Often those allowed to votes are not even Malaysians.
9. Stuff the ballot boxes.
A number of people were caught trying to enter ballot stations with large number of already marked ballot papers.
10. Increase the number of spoilt votes.
Some ballot station officials tried to get voters to use uncertified ballot papers. Only certified ballot papers would be officially valid, the rest would be considered spoilt votes.
11. Buy votes
When there are no independent observers around, it is a small matter to stuff ballot boxes or buy votes.
12. Try to falsify the count.
The returning officer at each polling station is suppose to oversee the counting of the votes and then report the count on an official form which he/she is suppose to authorise by signing in the presence of observers. In many cases, where the opposition had won, the returning officer had tried to get away without signing it (which would have allowed a different result to be sent to the main reporting centre).
Finally, when all the plans did not work out too well, stall, stall , stall. The Election Commission quickly reported all the government victories but when it came to seats won by the opposition, delayed announcing results for up to 6 hours; probably to allow time for other dirty tricks to be attempted. Independent websites posting the results of the vote counting were blocked. Even when the results could no longer be denied, the Election Commission refuse to announce the winner.
Before the elections, in full anticipation of the actions of the Department of Dirty Tricks, I prayed to God to confound the schemes of the wicked and I believe God has answered that prayer cause it is quite the miracle that the government still lost the election despite all their nefarious schemes.
A couple of weeks earlier and I could not have written this post without falling foul of the Anti-Fake News law. Just imagine.