On August 6, 2006, the International Republican Institute (IRI) sponsored a workshop hosted by Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (MAFREL) to discuss the state legislative elections which were held on May 20, 2006, in the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak. During the workshop, MAFREL, an independent election observation group, presented its findings on the Sarawak election. Based on observation activities in five parliamentary and 14 state constituencies, MAFREL concluded that the Sarawak election was not free from electoral irregularities, abuses, excesses and flaws.

During the May election in Sarawak, MAFREL verified electoral rolls, and observed pre-election campaigning, Election Day polling, and post-election developments. MAFREL Chairman Abdul Malek Hussein said the observers found that a high percentage of voter records were missing from electoral rolls, which led to voter confusion about where to cast a ballot. Malek said, “The electoral rolls used were still contaminated with large numbers of untraceable voters, unrecognized voters and even the deceased.”

The workshop drew representatives from Malaysian political parties across the spectrum, including the United Malays National Organization, the leading party in the ruling coalition, and two major opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party and the Islamic Party of Malaysia. Attendees also included representatives from civil society organizations, media, universities, and the U.S. Embassy.

Three days after the workshop, Malaysia’s Election Commission announced that it will seek to amend existing laws to ensure a clean electoral roll for the next general election anticipated for 2008.

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