KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — Bersih 2.0 has been ranked the most influential body out of some 125 Malaysian groups and individuals involved in a study of civil society organisations (CSOs) in pushing for government reforms.

The comprehensive study by independent outfit IMAN Research, in collaboration with the US Department of International Development (USAID) and a US-based international development company DAI, found the electoral watchdog to be consistently named by its peers and other observers to have the most sway in pushing forward its reform agenda.

Others named were the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Bar Council Malaysia, Coalition of Malaysian human rights groups (Comango), Sisters in Islam(SIS), and Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram).

Bersih 2.0 was ranked the highest “in-degree” by far — often described as a form of popularity, prestige or influence, and out-degree as gregariousness or propensity to engage others. Other organisations like the Bar Council, Sisters in Islam and Suaram have high in-degree scores as well.

While Bersih 2.0 is seen to be the most important and prestigious organisation in the network, it has a far lower out-degree, ranked at number five, meaning its engagement with other actors in the network is less than one might expect from an organisation with such great perceived influence.

“In contrast, Suaram, Ikram, and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) have far higher engagement with the network, suggesting they have a greater degree of cooperation with other organisations.

“One possibility for this is that Bersih 2.0 is a coalition of multiple organisations, all of whom are independently involved in their various causes. Open and ongoing communication amongst the over 90 organisations are a constant which is why there is a possible lack of external engagements,” said the study.

Bersih 2.0 also emerged as the most important organisation in terms of communication importance — which is the value of the organisation’s communication relationship with others, and came out tops again as having the most perceived influence on government reform.

The Bar Council and SIS came out second and third for communication importance as well, while the Bar Council Malaysia and Suhakam came in second and third for the most perceived influence on government reform.

The study said that many of the organisations presented here, although not necessarily uniform in their relationship with the previous Barisan Nasional government and current Pakatan Harapan Government, have many shared values and causes.

“Most began as political movements and registered as companies as ways to evade interrogation from authorities (which in many cases were not successful) and have become

icons for being direct, vocal and critical of issues that they represent. Their rich history with the state and constant appearance in the media, both local and international, make them appealing allies for chasing government reforms.”

The study noted that the Malaysian government reform network has a “core” group of 30 best positioned to collaborate while the remaining organisations can be described as “peripheral.”

The sample included 64 civil society organisations, seven government organisations, four individual actors, four international organisations, four research/academic institutions, three non-governmental organisations, one activist group, and one donor organisation.

Participants were further asked to name where their organisation was headquartered. Thirty organisations named Kuala Lumpur, seven named Sarawak, two named Johor, 24 named Selangor, 10 named Sabah, four from Penang, two from Kelantan, one from Perak, and nine organisations were located in more than one state.

Participants stated that the number of staff members ranged from zero (sometimes meaning volunteer-operated) to 100, with an average of 16.56 staff members per organisation.