National Museum celebrates evolution of Malaysia’s electoral system

National Museum celebrates evolution of Malaysia’s electoral system

A recent exhibition at the National Museum aims to teach younger generations the importance of voting

ELECTIONS are the foundation of a democratic country. Malaysia has conducted over 14 General Elections (GE) at the Federal level and over 150 by-elections.

Over time, various reforms have been made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the electoral process in Malaysia. These reforms can be seen through the delimitation of constituencies, registration of electors and conduct of elections.

The Vote for the Nation exhibition was a collaboration between the National Museum together with the Election Commission (EC). It ran from August until earlier this month. The exhibition was held to highlight the process of voting and to educate society on the importance of voting as part of a citizen’s responsibility.

The exhibition focused on the history and evolution of Malaysia’s electoral system. Various physical paraphernalia such as party manifestos and pamphlets to ballot forms and boxes were displayed since the time of Malaysia’s Independence.

Ballot boxes from the 1960s. – Pic courtesy of National Museum

Polling simulations were also organised with students to teach how voting works in Malaysia and inculcate the importance of voting. The general election is one of the significant features of the parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.

The general election is the process of electing representatives of the people either at the state or federal level.

The history of general elections in this country began with the Municipal Council Elections and was followed by the General Elections for the Federal Legislative Council in 1955.

The Federal Legislative Council election in 1955 was vital for the country’s history as it was the first general election to be held. It enabled the Federation of Malaya to form an interim government before gaining independence on August 31, 1957.

The Vote for the Nation exhibition was held to highlight the importance of voting. – Pic courtesy of National Museum

After the country attained its independence, a total of 14 federal general elections have been held with the most recent being the 14th general election in 2018.

The exhibition focused on three main subjects: the system of governance in Malaysia, the electoral process (from the dissolution of parliament to the formation of a new government) and the evolution of electoral management.

Covering many different areas, the exhibition provides a detailed history of elections and their connection with the country’s independence as well as reforms and improvements that have been undertaken by the EC through demarcation, voter registration and election process.

Polling station dioramas and polling booth simulators were other features of the exhibition. Visitors were provided guided tours and taught the process before and during polling day, and what happens after the completion of the vote count.

Pamphlets and booklets of different political parties distributed to voters. – Pic courtesy of National Museum

Together they make for a time capsule of the changes that have taken place in our electoral process.

For instance, on July 16, 2002, a year-round voter registration system was introduced, whereby an eligible person may register at any time and the registration must adhere to the address as stated on the identity card. Yet, many eligible voters were constantly left out due to the six-month-long process it took to update the electoral roll.

On December 15, 2021, automatic voter registration effectively came into force and was implemented with the approval of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019. It also saw the lowering of the voting age limit to 18 years old.

The EC also introduced the usage of indelible ink during the 2013 General Election to prevent identity thefts and duplication of votes. Apart from that, many new equipments were introduced to ease the operation of elections.

Polling simulations were organised for visitors and students to demystify the election process. – Pic courtesy of National Museum

This includes the use of transparent ballot boxes and ballot-counting methods at polling stations.

While many more reforms are still urgently required, the electoral system in Malaysia is constantly moving in line with modernisation without sidelining the needs of the voters to expedite an efficient, transparent, and fair election process in Malaysia.

For National Museum curator Raja Suriaty and her team, it took months of bibliographic research to bring this exhibition to life.

The National Museum visited the Election Academy at the Election Commission Malaysia, and the Declaration of Independence Memorial in Melaka to identify suitable collections to exhibit.

The ballot papers and forms have seen several changes through the decades. – Pic courtesy of National Museum

Besides, the National Museum also obtained photographic material from the National Archives of Malaysia (ANM), the Malaysian Information Department and the Malaysia Design Archive (MDA).

She remarked that subjects like these need to be highlighted to the community, especially for the younger generation, “because voting is the right of every Malaysian. The importance of voting needs to be taught so that no one takes this responsibility lightly.

“When studying the history of elections, we realise that every single vote is important to form a democratic country,” she added.

source – The Vibes

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