in: Trends in Southeast Asia, 2017 no. 19
Malaysia will hold its 14th general election before August 2018, bringing renewed focus on the nature of political competition in the country. This paper provides a systematic overview of the electoral process and an assessment of how it shapes the country's political environment. Political competition in Malaysia is extensively manipulated to provide the incumbent government substantial advantages in elections. Most of the manipulations are a result of institutional bias during the pre-election phase. They create a fundamentally uneven playing field that has entrenched the political dominance of the UMNO-led coalition. Electoral manipulations impose numerous costs. These include direct costs like the inefficient allocation of resources, as well as indirect costs like the exacerbating of ethnic divisions. Both channels hinder Malaysia's efforts to reach further developmental milestones. The high degree of electoral manipulation in Malaysia, juxtaposed against its successful developmental record and relative social stability, makes the country an important case for the growing body of research on electoral integrity and malpractice.