Bersih, meaning clean elections, an electoral reforms movement has garnered thousands of supporters in Malaysia. They demanded reforms in an electoral system, which is widely believed to be rigged in support of the ruling coalition (the predominant political party, United Malays National Organization has held power in coalition since Malaysia’s independence in 1957). Peaceful protests were staged in July 2011, but they were met with massive force by the govt, and thousands of protestors were arrested.
The govt crackdown has only served to alienate more people and support for the opposition parties is growing. However this movement is showing signs of deepening ethnic divides in Malaysia. This is because the present govt’s policies have largely benefitted the ethnic Malays (bumiputra-sons of the soil) to the detriment of other groups like Chinese and Indian (non-bumiputra). As this movement intensifies, the more the incumbent govt relies on the Malays and the more this alienates the others- reinforcing the ethnic divide further.