KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysians on Monday picked the word "Gai" or "change" in English as the Chinese character that best represents 2012, the year that saw demonstrations occurring more frequently than before in an otherwise quiet country.
Organizers said 5,000 people had took part in the second annual poll to select the character as"change" made the cut by winning 19. 4 percent of the votes. "Xuan" (choice), "luan" (mess) and "zheng" (tussle) were among the characters that made it to the top 10. "The word (change) can mean the global climate. It can also mean the global developments, the responses that were triggered by the sociopolitical happenings domestically, the people's experience in thoughts and life generally throughout the year and their aspiration and attitude towards the future," Pheng Yin Wah, president of the Federation of Chinese Associations in Malaysia, told the result announcement ceremony on Monday.
The Federation was one of the organizers of the poll.
Demonstrations held in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur throughout the year had drawn record turnouts-- notably the Bersih rally in April that saw at least 50,000 protesting against alleged electoral fraud and several marches organized by environmental group Himpunan Hijau against a controversial rare earth refinery.
The rallies had prompted the government to improve governance transparency and introduce civil reforms ahead of looming polls.
The 13th general elections due by June next year would be a tough assignment for prime minister Najib Razak to restore the ruling coalition National Front's former glory after it lost a two- third parliamentary majority and five out of 13 states in its worst showing in election in 2008.
Chinese, the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, made up 24.6 percent of its total population.
Last year,"zhuan" which means turn in English were chosen as the character of the year in the Southeast Asian nation.
Besides Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore were among the seven countries that hold similar character polls each year.
China chose the word "Meng" which means "dream" for 2012; Japan, Kanji character "Kane" which means "gold"; while Singapore, "Se" or "colour".