Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 25th August 2011:
Election Commission must spell out what are the electoral reforms based on Bersih 2.0's Eight Demands which could be implemented immediately without waiting for PSC
The announcement by the Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Aziz Yusof that all Malaysian registered voters residing overseas will soon be able to vote via post has reinforced the case that there are electoral reforms proposed in Bersih 2.0's Eight Demands which could be implemented immediately, whether by way of new election by-laws or necessary legislative amendments for the Oct. 3 meeting of Parliament, without waiting for any parliamentary select committee.
The Election Commission must therefore spell out, clearly and unequivocally with no “ifs” and “buts”, what are the electoral reforms based on the Bersih 2.0 Eight Demands which could be implemented immediately without waiting for any parliamentary select committee and in time for the forthcoming general elections.
The demand that all Malaysian citizens living abroad should be able to exercise their right to vote is one of several reforms proposed by Bersih 2.0 on “postal ballot” reform. The question is why the Election Commission is still sitting on the other proposals for postal ballot reform.
The second of the Eight Demands of Bersih 2.0 on “Reform postal ballot” states:
“2. Reform postal ballot
“The current postal ballot system must be reformed to ensure that all citizens of Malaysia are able to exercise their right to vote. Postal ballot should not only be open for all Malaysian citizens living abroad, but also for those within the country who cannot be physically present in their voting constituency on polling day. Police, military and civil servants too must vote normally like other voters if not on duty on polling day.
“The postal ballot system must be transparent. Party agents should be allowed to monitor the entire process of postal voting.”
The Election Commission should state clearly whether it is prepared to accept these proposals for postal ballot reform which could be implemented without waiting for any parliamentary select committee, viz:
The first of Bersih 2.0's Eight Demands to “Clean the electoral roll” are also eminently implementable if the Election Commission is really independent, professional and has the constitutional integrity to ensure that the electoral system is free, fair and clean.
Bersih 2.0's demand on a clean electoral roll states:
“1. Clean the electoral roll
“The electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. The electoral roll must be revised and updated to wipe out these ‘phantom voters’. The rakyat have a right to an electoral roll that is an accurate reflection of the voting population.
“In the longer term, BERSIH 2.0 also calls for the EC to implement an automated voter registration system upon eligibility to reduce irregularities.”
In fact, the onus is on the Election Commission as it reflects most adversely on its efficiency, independence, professionalism and integrity, why it is unable to take immediate action without waiting for any parliamentary select committee, to clean up the electoral roll to remove deceased persons, multiple voter registration under a single address on non-existent addresses, and phantom voters.
There is also no acceptable reason why the Election Commission has not been able to implement a system of automatic voter registration upon eligibility of voters.
Other examples of electoral reforms which could be implemented without waiting for any parliamentary select committee are proposals on the use of indelible ink and a minimum 21-day campaign period.
It is open secret that although the Constitution vests the Election Commission with the powers and responsibilities to conduct elections, it is not an unusual especially in recent decades for the Prime Minister who dissolves Parliament to also fix the date for polling for the general election – and subserviently complied with by the Election Commission.
This is most unconstitutional as it is the prerogative of the Election Commission to determine the nomination and polling dates of general elections.
Is the Election Commission prepared to re-assert its independence, professionalism and integrity without having to bow to the dictates of the ruling parties or the Prime Minister of the day in determining the dates for nomination and polling and the length of the campaign period for a general election?
Inter-related to this question is the concept of a “caretaker government” when Parliament is dissolved.
Is the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, prepared to accept the concept of “caretaker government” and undertake that there would be no abuse of powers including misuse of public funds during the campaign period by a caretaker Prime Minister and caretaker government who should be be solely concerned with “day-to-day administration” between the period between dissolution of Parliament and establishment of a new government after general elections?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor