Of all the countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s elections have arguably received the most academic attention.Since the country received its independence in 1957, there have been thirteen general elections, regularly held within five-year intervals with the exception of the eighteen-month emergency period after the May 1969 racial riots.The chapter is necessarily selective in its approach and coverage.The purpose is to draw together central themes and evaluate how elections are being understood, rather than to provide a comprehensive review.These assumptions tie into different practices in electoral contests.Voters are categorised in constituencies along ethnic lines – with different ethnic rationales used to delineate seats – which in turn leads to a particularly ethnic-oriented contest.Our knowledge of Malaysians as voters has expanded, with increasing attention to different political identities and social cleavages.We also find that public attention to electoral reform has fostered in-depth research on how Malaysia administers elections and the impact of these administrative rules and procedures.
In 1957, the dominant party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), forged a coalition with the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), forming what was known as the Alliance.
As elections have become more competitive in the last decade, more attention is also centring on how elections may allow changes in leaders and policies.
In short, we appreciate the multiple roles that citizens, campaigns, rules and institutions play in shaping electoral outcomes.
The attention to the election primarily highlighted the elites participating in the process as candidates and their campaigns.
Voters were largely missing ingredients in the initial analytical works, as an elite focus on interpreting elections emerged.