However, an online campaign is urging Malaysians to consider flying home anyway. It seems there're not convinced the postal voting system will actually work.
The election date has not yet been set, but once Parliament is dissolved on April 28, the ruling party has 60 days to set a date and many observers believe this will happen sooner than that.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: William de Cruz, one of the organisers of the Jom Balik Undi campaign, Malay for "Let's Go Home To Vote", and a coordinator of Global Bersih in Sydney
DE CRUZ: Firstly let's make no mistake about this, this is the most critical election in Malaysia's history, and having awakened to the power of their vote, Malaysians are now determined to make every vote count. Secondly, we are not convinced that we have been presented with a fraud-proof voting system, and we are certainly not hopeful of getting it perfect before the next election. Thirdly, the regulations were gazetted in haste and without meaningful consultation with stakeholders in civil society. Also absent, and I would say glaringly, are the precise details about his operation and how it might meet universal standards of transparency and accountability. And so given all that Bersih, which is at the forefront of Malaysia's movement for electoral reform, is advising all Malaysians who can afford to, to choose as their first option flying home. And if they cannot do that, Bersih is saying, make use of the postal vote, ensure that you use the postal vote and heed advise that will be forthcoming on how we as individuals and as groups may work to ensure that the vote is left tamper-proof.
COCHRANE: We spoke a few weeks ago with the deputy chairman of Malaysia's Election Commission, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, and got a bit of the detail around this postal voting system, some of it remained a little unclear though. Can you give us any sort of new details that have emerged as to how the process will work and how people can interact with that to make sure their voice is heard in election?
DE CRUZ: This is as you very rightly pointed out, this is one of our main concerns. There are areas in the postal voting process that are still grey and very, very confusing. Our understanding is that ballots will be issued in KL, the postal votes will be put into envelopes and sent to overseas missions that have been nominated as polling stations abroad. Our duty now is to chart that process and to ensure as far as possible that we can observe it effectively and to make sure that fraud or the potential for fraud is absolutely limited. Now in terms of the latest developments we are hearing the right noises from the Election Commission. The Election Commission has been saying in the past couple of days that political parties will be allowed to appoint election agents and election observers at overseas polling stations, and although this has been provided for in the law already, it is very encouraging from where we stand to actually hear the Election Commission in public make these statements, that's good. So I believe that despite the mess and despite the difficulties ahead, we have already come a substantial way and it is looking good for engagement with the Election Commission in terms of ensuring the postal voting process is accountable and transparent.
COCHRANE: For those who might still have their doubts or for other reasons choose to fly back to Malaysia to vote or to be with their families around that time, there is a special deal being offered apparently, and your campaign is promoting this deal by the Malaysian-based carrier AirAsia and its long haul carrier. Can you tell us it's offering cheaper flights essentially from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Nepal. How will this work, how will they sort of make sure they get the right people on the planes?
DE CRUZ: Well the AirAsia X CEO, Azran Osman-Rani, posted a message on our Facebook page, Jom Balik Undi, on February 1 offering the special offers for registered voters. Now my understanding, and of course negotiations are continuing with Bersih officials in Kuala Lumpur and AirAsia X, my understanding is that all bookings and reservations will have to be made off-line. AirAsia X naturally will have to check that people who want to take advantage of the lower fare offer are indeed registered voters. So it won't be a case of simply going up to the internet, the AirAsia X site and making a booking for a certain date. I understand that we're going to be given a hotline, a 1300 number whatever it may be in Malaysia, and dedicated email that we will be able to use to make further inquiries.
COCHRANE: Any signs of any other airlines making a similar offer?
DE CRUZ: Not yet, not yet but AirAsia X's initiative in this respect was very, very encouraging for us because it's not, how shall I put it, the done thing in Malaysia's corporate world, because it can be seen to be coming out in public support of the movement for change. And that's not the done thing in Malaysia's corporate world.
COCHRANE: Although we should stress that they're not siding with any particular party or making any political statements, simply offering the opportunity for people to vote for whoever they wish for. But I certainly get your point, the undercurrent being overseas Malaysians possibly more likely to vote for the opposition?
DE CRUZ: Exactly, that's right, but I would also like to state here that Bersih which I represent has always made a point of stressing that they are non-partisan, and that's a very valuable philosophy I believe, because best case scenario all the overseas Malaysians who are planning to return home, and all the people who have been frustrated with the fact that we have lived under a government that has ruled almost unbroken for 55 years, best case scenario there's a change of government. Bersih's point is we must always be watchful of government and hold all elected representatives to account.