Commonwealth Election Reports

2310-1512 (online)
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Commonwealth Election Reports, the reports of Commonwealth Observer Groups, Missions or Expert Teams, are independently prepared by the team members as a contribution to the democracy and consensus-building in Commonwealth countries.


General Elections in Malaysia, 20–21 October 1990 You do not have access to this content

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Commonwealth Observer Group
01 Jan 1990
9781848595835 (PDF)

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These Election Reports are the observations, conclusions and recommendations of Commonwealth Observer Groups. The SecretaryGeneral constitutes these observer missions at the request of governments and with the agreement of all significant political parties. At the end of a mission, a report is submitted to the SecretaryGeneral, who makes it available to the government of the country in question, the political parties concerned and to all Commonwealth governments. The report eventually becomes a public document.

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  • Introduction

    The decision of the Government of Malaysia to invite the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, to send a team of independent Observers to its 1990 general elections was significant in many ways not only for the Commonwealth but for the wider international community. It is important therefore to record here the background against which the Secretary-General was invited to organise and send the Observer Team.

  • Method of Work

    On Sunday 7 October, two of our number met the Commonwealth Secretary-General in London for briefing on our work. The Secretary-General emphasised the importance and far-reaching significance of the election observation exercise and the need for it to be carried out successfully. The advance group of two Observers and a complement of 5 support staff left London on Monday, 8 October 1990 arriving in Kuala Lumpur on 9 October.

  • Preparations for Elections

    The essential legislative framework for the holding of elections in Malaysia consists of the Constitution of 1957, the Elections Act 1958, the Election Offences Act, 1954 and the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981. There are other related enactments. Their provisions take root from the system obtaining at the time of independence.

  • The Nominations

    The nomination of candidates marks the beginning of the election process. It triggers some significant election activities. For example, where only one candidate has been nominated in a constituency that person becomes the duly elected representative for that constituency.

  • Political Parties

    At the time of the present election 40 political parties were known to be in existence though not all of them contested the elections. In the past, the ruling coalition was opposed by individual parties. What appeared distinctive about the 1990 elections was the emergence of a broadly based coalition opposition.

  • The Campaign

    The election campaign lasted just 10 days; it was described as the first since independence which presented the voters of Malaysia with an alternative alliance to the ruling coalition. This was an important election, with over 1,000 candidates and made for a short, intensive, and passionate campaign. The ghost of 1969 still hovers and many of the restrictions which circumscribed this election stem from that period.

  • The Role of the Media

    We discovered that the media's role was not only significant but was presented to us as one of the problem are as in the election campaign. Wherever we went, we heard complaints about it and it was clear that there was a widespread perception that important sections of it were biased - a situation we could not ignore.

  • Preparations for Conduct of the Poll

    The general election of 1990 was the eighth held in the states of Peninsular Malaysia since independence. For Sabah and Sarawak it was the sixth occasion on which a Federal general election was held since the two states became part of Malaysia. Polling in the states of the Peninsular was completed in one day, whereas two days were required to complete the poll in Sabah and Sarawak.

  • Conduct of the Poll

    The conduct of the poll marks the climax of the election process. This single event, perhaps more than any other, usually attracts final judgment on whether the election was free and fair, and on the quality of the services delivered to the electors. It is also this occasion that provides an opportunity for public scrutiny of election officers by the voting public, which will have the chance to assess their competence and integrity.

  • Counting the Votes

    The counting of the votes, though a routine exercise, is a key event in the election process. This should be done promptly and efficiently in the presence of the parties' and/or the candidates' agents.

  • Complaints

    We received a number of representations from leaders of Opposition parties, certain pressure groups and individuals making complaints concerning unfair practices on the part of the Government and the Election Commission relating to various aspects of the election process. Basically, the complaints were of two categories: long-standing complaints such as uneven application of the law with regard to the use of the media in election campaigning, restrictions on election campaign meetings and malpractices in the operation of postal ballots; and allegations relating to specific irregularities in the actual preparation and supervision of the 1990 general elections.

  • Acknowledgements

    We wish to record our deep appreciation to all those who contributed to the carrying out of our mandate, and particularly to those without whose assistance we would not have been able to function effectively. To the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, we extend our special thanks for support and for facilities so willingly placed at our disposal. We wish in particular to pay a warm tribute to the devoted and untiring labours of Ambassador Hashim Taib and members of the Malaysian Task Force, both in the States and in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Appendix and Annexes
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