By Gerhard Hoffstaedter
Bersih 2.0 has eight demands that ought to make elections fairer and more transparent, among them the use of indelible ink as well as the strengthening of public institutions and wiping out corruption. Clearly, the latter are aspirational demands and the former commonsense ones that the electoral commission could feasibly act upon without controversy.
The electoral commission chairman, Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, however, has accused Bersih 2.0 and its chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan, a former Bar Council president, of being supported by opposition parties and thus being political.
The government is trying to hinder this rally as it is seen as an opposition ploy to undermine the government parties. Reactionary movements such as Perkasa, an NGO that aims to keep Malay special rights in Malaysia, are seizing on this and portraying Bersih in a racial (political) light. They claim the rally will cause chaos in Kuala Lumpur. Perkasa, with several other right-wing organisations, has called for an alternative demonstration to counteract the electoral reform push. Their posturing is meant to discourage Bersih marchers.
Why would anyone want to stop any movement toward electoral democracy and a transparent electoral process?
The main reason is that "clean" politics would diminish UMNO's stranglehold on federal parliament and the considerable government's coffers. Already, the government has responded with mass arrests, declaring Bersih 2.0 illegal.
In addition, Bersih is in effect telling the world the current Malaysian government is corrupt and that elections in Malaysia are corrupt. No government likes to hear this from their own citizens, and it will be instructive to see how the government responds to Bersih's demands. It has wielded the usual tactics of delay and containment, recently arresting key political figures in the campaign.
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