The Malaysian government’s problem with Xenophon is likely to be that his visits and statements amplify domestic critiques of the way in which elections are conducted in Malaysia. These critiques are both articulate and, importantly, the Malaysian public is increasingly receptive to them. They target widely-reported electoral problems such as gerrymandering, malapportionment, phantom voters who are registered but cannot be identified, problems with postal voting, and so on.

Public discussion of the electoral system and its weaknesses has dented the ruling coalition’s electoral prestige, and so drawing attention to them in a manner which is both public and international enables the opposition to advance its message.