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In Malaysia, a May Day pay raise, but no victory for democratic reformers

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Rising living standards

Malaysia has achieved stunning economic growth since independence, and steadily rising living standards for its people.

But while elections have been dutifully held (the next general elections will be Malaysia's 13th), the government has long had control over the outcomes, with tight controls on the press, independent political organization, and the counting of the ballots themselves.

Malaysia ranks 122 out of 179 nations on Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index (just behind Venezuela and Zimbabwe). The country has seen rampant gerrymandering of electoral districts and allegations in the 2008 elections that the National Front might be voting the cemetery given the electoral rolls had more than 9,000 people over 100 on them.

Ahead of the last elections, Human Rights Watch charged that "the authorities’ manipulation of the electoral process appears aimed to ensure that the ruling coalition maintains its two-thirds parliamentary majority." It also charges that "police have repeatedly blocked attempts by opposition parties to hold election rallies by refusing to issue the permits required for any gathering of four or more people."

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