The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) is proud to release our Annual Report for the year 2021, a year our nation faced great political upheavals with the declaration of national emergency by then Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on 12 January 2021 with the suspension of Parliament and elections, contestably, to combat the surging Covid-19 infections at that time but more likely due to the withdrawal of support from some MPs for his tenuous coalition.
Despite the restrictions already imposed by the Movement Control Order and the disabling of our parliamentary democracy by the Muhyiddin government, BERSIH relentlessly pushed to find solutions to the political impasse that plagued us since the Sheraton Move in early 2020. The realignment of political parties and defections of elected representatives saw the collapse of six state governments by the end of 2021, and the eventual collapse of the Muhyiddin government by August 2021, underlined the urgent need for institutional reforms to restore political stability and to enhance accountability by politicians to the public.
BERSIH priority is to push for institutional reforms that would restore the voters’ supremacy and level the playing field for all political parties. Where governments and politicians need to be called out, we have done so regardless of which party they belong to. We have also reached out to engage with politicians from both government parties as well as those in opposition to find solutions they can agree upon through our numerous meetings, consultation workshops and forums. As a result, BERSIH has achieved much and made important impacts in 2021.
Here we would like to highlight seven key achievements on electoral and institutional reforms in 2021.
- State of Emergency Annulled – BERSIH, together with six other civil society organizations, filed an originating summons at High Court on 2 February 2021 to seek declaration on the role of Parliament and judiciary during the state of emergency. BERSIH called for the lifting of state of emergency and launched a public campaign on it. The State of Emergency was lifted on 21 July 2021, before the expiry date of 1 August 2021.
- Suspension of Parliament Lifted – BERSIH campaigned for the reopening of Parliament via press statements, infographics, video and behind closed-door lobby with political parties and members of Parliament. Under intense public pressure and from within the ruling coalition, Muhyiddin’s government finally agreed to lift the suspension of Parliament and resumed the sitting of Parliament with a Special Sitting from 26 July to 2 August, 2021.
- Historic Confidence & Supply Agreement (CSA) Signed – BERSIH is the main proponent of the CSA to restore political stability amidst the pandemic crisis since the Sheraton Move. On the verge of the collapse, Muhyiddin offered a reform package deal to the opposition but was immediately rejected by the opposition bloc, Pakatan Harapan (PH). Following the resignation of Muhyiddin as the 8th PM, the new PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability with Pakatan Harapan on 13 September 2021, promising to legislate the anti-hopping law, provide equal constituency development fund, parliamentary reforms, two-term limit for the PM, implementation of Undi18 and automatic voter registration, etc. The MOU is the probably the first confidence and supply agreement at the federal-level in Malaysian political history.
- Expansion of Absentee Voting to Malaysian in Neighbouring Countries – BERSIH has long advocated for Malaysians living overseas, including those in neighbouring countries like Singapore, Southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan, to be accorded absentee voting rights and to be able to vote by post. This right was fulfilled to overseas Malaysians during GE14 but not to those in neighbouring countries until the Melaka State Election in November 2021. Now all overseas Malaysians can apply to be postal voters.
- Equitable Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Implemented Under MOU – BERSIH has criticized unequal allocation of CDF to elected representatives as it may be used as incentive for party hopping. In March 2021, BERSIH and Institute for Democratic and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) published a research paper on the policy of CDF in Malaysia with reform recommendations. When Ismail Sabri signed the MOU with PH, one of the term of the agreement was that PM MPs would receive equal CDF as government MPs. We called for it to be given to non-PH MPs but to no avail. Nonetheless, our campaign and critique has mainstreamed the concept of equitable CDF.
- Anti-Hopping Law/Recall Law Included in the MOU – BERSIH has advocated for anti-hopping/recall law to be introduced into the political system of Malaysia since the Sheraton Move in 2020. BERSIH commissioned Prof Wong Chin Huat to conduct research on the matter and published two research reports, namely “How to Deter Party Hopping in Malaysia? An Exploration of Remedies” (published on 4 January 2021) and “A Case for State-Level Recall Procedure Law to Remedy Party-Hopping in Malaysia” (published on 29 July 2021). We launched public campaigns and lobbied lawmakers from both sides to adopt such a law to curb unbridled party-hopping and it was included in the MOU between the Government and PH. It was passed into law in August 2022.
- Implementation of Undi18 and Automatic Voter Registration – The constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18 (UNDI18) and together with it, Automatic Voters Registration (AVR) was achieved in July 2019. However, their implementation was unduly delayed. Together with other civil society organizations, BERSIH pressed for the immediate implementation of UNDI18 and AVR in 2021. The implementation was promised in the MOU and finally fulfilled on 15 December 2021. Now all Malaysians who are 18 years old and above are automatically registered and can vote on polling day by presenting their IC.
Though the Annual Report only covers the year 2021, we would like to give a fuller picture of our achievements over 32 months, from January 2020 up till August 2022. In this 32 months, BERSIH has…
- Released 19 reports on institutional reforms backed by comparative research and recommendations.
- Issued 165 unique press statements, not including translations.
- Held 118 stakeholder engagements.
- Organised 103 public events.
- Conducted 23 campaigns.
- Been accredited by the Election Commission as election observers since 2018 and had observed 5 parliamentary by-elections, 7 state by-elections and 4 state elections since.
- Help raised over RM3.3 million to help the most vulnerable communities during the MCO through our #MakanKongsi initiative in partnership with ENGAGE and The Good Kitchen.
- Initiated #SuaraUntukSemua with Astro Awani, Sinar Harian and Sin Chew Daily in November 2021 to provide fair media access during state elections in Melaka, Sarawak and Johor.
- Initiated the formation of the Seed Community for Professional Parliament (SCPP) with other civil society organisations and think tanks in April 2021 to push for professionalisation of politics and parliamentary reform.
- Pushed for the formation of a Parliamentary Caucus on Multiparty Democracy in July 2022 and acting as its secretariat.
- Conducted a nationwide roadshow on #KetuananPengundi to raise public awareness on urgent reforms needed for the country to restore voter’s supremacy.
All these would not have been possible without the support of the Rakyat, various donors, partnership of other NGOs, think tanks and media organisations. We would also like to acknowledge the dedication of the BERSIH Secretariat team who implemented all of these programmes and activities.
To read our full Annual Report 2021, please download it at our website – www.bersih.org.
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH