Malaysians went to the polls on Saturday and woke up Sunday in a democracy. No one can quite believe it. The ruling coalition, made up of mostly the Malay Party (UMNO) with a few token Chinese and Indian flacks, has ruled this country since independence in 1957. They own the media, both print and video, and have gerrymandered the electoral districts to ensure a majority even if they lose. In 2004 for example, they got 64% of the popular vote and 91% of the seats in parliament.

The only time they ever lost an election was in 1969, which was suppressed by a state-sponsored race riot resulting in a local bloodbath and a palace coup. The Internal Security Act, put in place in the late ’50s to deal with the communists, has never been rescinded and allows the governement to declare illegal any peaceful assembly and jail indefinitely without charge anyone they deem dangerous to the public good.

It is in this context that Saturday’s election took place. Without any support from the media, using only the internet, cell phones, and word of mouth, the word went out to give this arrogant, corrupt government a stinging rebuke that will rebound in this country for years to come. Democracy is coming to Malaysia. It will be messy and confusing, but it looks like it is going to finally take hold.

For a look at a local blogger who ran in the election – and won by 62,000 votes over the incumbent! – check out http://www.jeffooi.com/

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