Electoral Reform Movement in Malaysia : Emergence, Protest, and Reform

  • Khoo, Ying Hooi (Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya)
  • Received : 2014.04.28
  • Accepted : 2014.11.12
  • Published : 2014.12.31


Protests are not new in Malaysia, though it is restricted by the ruling government. The trend of street protests and demonstrations since the emergence of Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), Malaysia's first people movement on electoral reform, has triggered a sentiment of people power among Malaysian citizens. With protests and popular mobilization becoming pronounced in Malaysian politics, political activism becomes for Malaysians a channel of discontent and expression of political preferences. Using information obtained from interviews with individuals linked to the movement, this paper articulates that protests are no longer exclusive to Malaysians. This paper illustrates the emergence of the Bersih movement and explores the three Bersih mass rallies that took place in 2007, 2011, and 2012. This paper further links the protests with the electoral reform initiatives. It argues that the Bersih movement has managed to lobby fundamental changes in the Malaysian political culture.



The author would like to thank the interviewees who willingly shared information and insight for this paper. The author would also like to thank the University of Malaya for a scholarship that enabled the completion of this research paper.