In Malaysia, universal suffrage has been established and legislative elections are held every five years. The last general election took place in March 2008, during which opposition parties have succeeded in breaking the two-thirds majority of the ruling coalition for the first time since 1969. The National Front (Barisan Nasional; BN), which had won 198 of 219 seats of the lower house in the 2004 election, only managed to secure 140 seats in 2008. However, the election cannot be regarded as entirely free and fair, as the BN has repeatedly been accused of tampering with voter registration lists. Also, there are repressive laws that restrict the media and the opposition parties and limit the chances of contesting parties to reach and mobilise more voters. That the opposition
parties managed to win a considerable number of votes despite all the limitations they face suggests that the BNâ€™s dominance is diminishing. In terms of political pluralism and participation, the government tolerates civic groups as long as they refrain from criticising or questioning government policies. However, a large number of civic activities are constrained by laws. For example, the rights to freely associate and assemble are severely limited, with any assembly of more than three people requiring a public permit. The police can also arrest participants even without a warrant. The role of NGOs is therefore rather restricted through the lens of liberal democratic standards.