Overseas Malaysians vote

History made: Sunday, 28th of April, 2013 – for the first time ever, some Malaysians overseas (other than the usual) were allowed to vote.

Historically, Malaysians overseas, except for certain categories had been denied their right to vote, as this article explains.

The regulations which have been drawn up by the Election Commission allow members of the armed forces, public servants and students in higher education, as well as the spouses of any of the above, to register as absent voters. Once registered as absent voters, they are automatically entitled to postal ballots; but for anyone else, there is no way to vote unless they can afford and find a flight to return to Malaysia to vote when an election is called.

However, through the persistent efforts of dedicated individuals and the increasing tide of democratisation in Malaysia has enfranchised more, though not that the majority of Malaysians overseas.

This report filed by Kean Wong and William De Cruz, contributors to New Mandala, tells the story of how this came to pass.

“What a journey it’s been,” she told the crowd that had gathered for the launch of Bersih: The Voices of Rhyme & Reason, a book commemorating April 28, 2012.

The journey was forced upon Malaysians because, for years, the Election Commission (EC) had discriminated against many Malaysians abroad, only allowing the postal vote to military personnel, public servants and students. Most recently the EC stood for months in contempt of Parliament, which had directed it to act with haste to open up the postal vote…

…For the first time last Sunday, 6,298 registered postal voters were due to lodge their ballots, joining 2,900 civil servants and students previously registered as absentee voters.

The low number of registered voters (6,298) however is an indication that more needs to be done, especially by the Election Commission, as this statement argues.

Nevertheless, stay tuned, as more history will be made in Malaysia over the next few days.