License article

Expats take their vote home for opposition

William de Cruz felt a buzz of excitement when he arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Sydney two weeks ago, one of the first in a wave of expatriate Malaysians who have come home to vote.

''There was an expectation of change in the most critical election in my country's history,'' he said.

But Mr de Cruz said the mood among supporters of opposition parties led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has swung to disappointment in the final days of campaigning.

''Overwhelmingly people want change but the odds stacked against the opposition appear insurmountable,'' he said, referring to alleged vote buying, a gerrymander, hundreds of millions of dollars in hand-outs, intimidation, violence, anti-opposition propaganda in the media and the mass movement of voters into tightly contested states.

Mr de Cruz said he hoped for change hinged on a high voter turn-out in Sunday's election to counter the campaign waged by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and its wealthy supporters.

The latest survey by the Merdeka Centre shows the victor will be determined by which side manages to snag the largest vote in 46 marginal seats across the country that fall into a 3 per cent vote-shift margin.


The survey of 1600 voters on peninsular Malaysia shows support for Prime Minister Najib Razak has dropped 3 percentage points from its previous poll and indicated the opposition Pakatan Rakyat was the favoured party to win government.

Other opinion polls have shown both sides neck and neck, although polling in Malaysia is considered mostly unreliable.

Mr de Cruz, a journalist who took a redundancy package last August after working for 10 years for News Limited, has been a key figure in a campaign in Australia called Jom Balik Undi or Let's Go Home and Vote. ''Every vote counts,'' he said. ''I came here so that my vote is 100 per cent secure.''

The campaign has rallied hundreds of expatriates to return to their home states to vote in the closest election in Malaysia's history.

Mr de Cruz said many of those who made the decision to return do not trust a new postal vote system that for the first time allows Malaysians overseas to cast ballots.

At previous elections only public servants, military personnel, students and their spouses were able to post votes from overseas.

Mr de Cruz said almost all the expatriates flying from Australia plan to vote for opposition parties.

''We have not come all this way to keep the status quo,'' he said.

Mr de Cruz said for the first time Malaysia has a credible multiracial and multireligious opposition to challenge the parties that have ruled since the country's independence from Britain in 1957. Mr Anwar has been swamped by supporters at huge rallies during the campaign.

Mr de Cruz, who runs the Australian arm of Global Bersih, an organisation that campaigns for free elections in Malaysia, said if Barisan was returned, opposition supporters would have no choice but to accept it. He denied there would be an Arab spring-type uprising.

''Barisan will serve at great pain - its every move will be watched and it will have to account for every action,'' he said. ''But no one on our side wants to see any violence. That is our mantra … no violence. We will not take to the streets in any way that might provide an opportunity for government agencies to clampdown in a very ugly way.''