FEBRUARY 5 — The Economist Intelligence Unit recently released a report on the Democracy Index 2019 in 167 countries around the world. The Democracy Index was based on the evaluation of the five main categories, i.e. electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.
Malaysia obtained the overall score of 7.16/10 with the highest score in the Electoral Process and Pluralism (9.17/10) and the lowest score in Civil Liberties (5.88). The scores in other categories are 7.86 in Functioning of Government, 6.67 in Political Participation and 6.25 in Political Culture.
Malaysia ranked 43rd last year from 52nd in 2018, rated a “flawed democracy.” This is a remarkable achievement by Malaysia despite the decline of democracy at both Asia and global level.
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (Bersih 2.0) wishes to congratulate the people, the Election Commission (EC) and the Malaysian government for achieving the highest score in the Election Process category.
This is a positive sign that Malaysia is moving towards a clean and fair election process. However, Bersih 2.0 also wishes to remind that there is a lot to do to achieve the status of a “full democracy." These are our calls:
To become as a full democracy, it is important to restore the people's confidence in key government institutions such as the electoral management body, the anti-corruption agency, the police, the judiciary and of course the parliament that draft laws and policies.
Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind the government that the process of appointing members of key institutions such as the EC, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Judicial Appointment Commission, the National Audit Department, the Attorney General's Chambers, etc. must be transparent and not appointed by the prime minister alone to create a better check and balance in the government.
In addition, the government also needs to reintroduce the Parliamentary Service Act so that Parliament can appoint its own officials. The civil society organisations are still waiting for the government to change the law to make this a reality in the New Malaysia era.
Freedom of Speech
The PH government should repeal laws that still restrict freedom of speech, such as the Sedition Act so that it cannot be used arbitrarily to suppress the people's criticism towards the government. All levels of government should also respect the freedom of speech without making it difficult for the people to hold a peaceful assembly.
We also wish to congratulate the government for the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act. Even without this Act, the government can stop fake news and prosecute those who disseminate the news using existing laws.
Local Government Election
The PH government should re-introduce elections at the local government level to increase the process of participation of the people in making policies that will benefit them.
The local government election, as the third vote of the people, is a very important democratic process of the country because it is the closest institution to the people. Local governments also need to be given more autonomy to create policies that benefit the people.
Prime Minister Power
The PH government should reduce the executive power in the hands of the prime minister (PM) in order to prevent the misuse of power as it had happened before during the Barisan Nasional era.
The PM's term needs to be limited to prevent politicians from holding power for too long, which could lead to abuse of power and corruption. Limiting the PM's term will also provide a more level power structure and a more stable political environment.
As of 2019, there are 33 women in federal parliament (14.9 per cent) and only five female ministers (17.8 percent). Transformation can only happen with greater inclusion and leadership of women in this country.
This should be a core aspect of Malaysia's commitment to gender equality by reflecting in the Cabinet. Judging from the numbers, Pakatan Harapan’s promise of 30 percent women representation in state and federal governments has not been fulfilled.
The improvement as reported shows that our country is heading towards a better and mature democracy, but none of this will succeed if there is no political will from the government to guarantee that reforms, especially institutional reforms are implemented immediately.
Bersih 2.0 also hopes that the government, oppositions and all Malaysians can work together to achieve “full democracy.”
* Press statement by Bersih 2.0 issued on February 5, 2020.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.