Democracy activists are preparing to carpool tens of thousands of Malaysians back home from abroad to vote, as Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy prepares for general elections in the spring.
Malaysia doesn’t currently issue absentee ballots except for students, government officials and their spouses. So in order for the hundreds of thousands of Malaysian expatriates in the neighboring city state of Singapore to vote, they’ll have to travel back to their hometowns. Bersih Singapore, a Singapore-based group of Malaysian democracy activists, is hoping to resolve the situation through carpooling. They have set up a website to match up drivers with potential passengers online, making sure that everyone can get back to their 165 constituencies all across Malaysia.
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Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has controlled the government for almost six decades, but its grip on power has been weakening in recent years. With BN holding 137 of the 222 seats in Malaysia’s parliament, some feel this election could be the difference-maker; Prime Minister Najib Razak has indicated that winning a majority this time around could be “challenging.”
Another online movement, JomBalikUndi, is collecting photos of Malaysians holding placards calling for the estimated one million Malaysians living and working abroad to “fly home” to to vote. However, these expatriates might still get to have their voice heard, as Parliament may still approve absentee voting by mail in its final session before the elections.