15 February 2008
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) has no confidence in that the upcoming General Election will be clean, free and fair.
BERSIH is initiating a nationwide signature campaign during the General Election to back a memorandum to DYMM Yang DiPertuan Agong for the establishment of a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER) after the elections.
BERSIH also urges voters to:
1. Come out to vote to prevent phantoms from voting on their behalf;
2. Sign the petition for the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER);
3. Record and document incidence of fraud, irregularities and misconduct so that they can be submitted to the RCER after elections;
4. Vote for parties that uphold the electoral reform agenda.
Why This General Election Will Not Be Clean, Free and Fair
BERSIH has presented five pressing demands to the Election Commission to ensure that the elections will meet the basic international standard for democratic elections, not withstanding greater problems in administrative neutrality, election finances, electoral administration and electoral system.
Unfortunately, none of the five minimal demands have been met, making the upcoming elections on 8 March 2008 just a ritual to legitimize the perpetuation of Barisan Nasional’s rule, rather than a level playing field for the people of Malaysia to choose their government and public office holders.
1. Electoral Roll
The electoral roll remains contaminated even after the deletion of 500,000 names of deceased voters. Documented cases of the following problems point to four key areas yet to be resolved:
(a) massive transfer of voters to other constituencies, which is effectively gerrymandering without re-districting (eg. Ipoh Timor, Perak and Belantek, Kedah where thousands of postal voters have been ‘conveniently’ moved into Opposition-held constituencies);
(b) fraudulent registrations by ‘impersonators’ (eg. Sharmila Thuraisingam from Subang has never registered to vote but recently discovered she is a voter in Kelantan);
(c) fraudulent registrations using non-existent addresses;
(d) arbitrary assignment of family members living at the same address to different constituencies (eg. the Ong family in Segamat has eight voters living at the same registered address of 278-D, Kg Abdullah, 85000 Segamat, but are split up to vote at two different constituencies: Sekijang and Segamat).
By altering the electoral roll for Belantek, Kedah, AFTER the end of the objection period, the Election Commission is violating the Elections (Registration of Elector) Regulations 2002 and committing an offence under Section 4 of the Election Offences Act 1954. This is particularly problematic and alarming. It shows that despite heavy criticism from the public, the EC is both arrogant and has no qualms about flouting the law openly.
2. Indelible Ink
Indelible ink can prevent multiple voting, effectively disposing of the phantom voter problem. However, effective employment of indelible ink however requires the amendment of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981, which by law needs to be laid before the Dewan Rakyat for approval.
Although the National Fatwa Council had consented to its use in early August 2007, the Election Commission deliberately failed to present the amendment to Parliament in its last session which lasted from late-August to December 2007. It also did not advise the Prime Minister against requesting for parliamentary dissolution before such an amendment is made.
As it stands now, the employment of indelible ink has no legal basis and any voter can refuse to be marked, just by signing the so-called Form 10A, which in itself is an unlawful creation of the Election Commission. This throws open the door for all phantom voters to opt out from this crucial exercise while giving the Election Commission a golden opportunity to falsely claim that the election is free from multiple voting.
3. Postal Voting
Postal voting for the armed forces and police personnel have always been marred by intimidation, breach of secrecy and outright proxy voting. This has made postal voters a convenient ‘wild card’ to ‘rescue’ BN in marginal constituencies. As the laws do not explicitly stipulate the geographical link of postal voters to a constituency, this tactic has been conveniently used by the EC to transfer postal voters to assist BN in certain areas, as and when it sees fit.
BERSIH’s call to abolish domestic postal voting for this very reason has been completely ignored. There has not been any single amendment to the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 to address either the consent on polling and electoral roll irregularities.
4. Free and Fair Media Access
Free and fair access to media for all parties and candidates, as a requisite for a level playing field, is a necessary condition for clean, free and fair elections. Without balanced reporting and the free flow of information, voters cannot make informed choices. Under Malaysian restrictive media laws, all mainstream media avenues are effectively controlled by BN, with UMNO owning all private free-to-view television channels.
While the election laws do not cover media operations, the EC has every right and the power to push for amendments in the Election Offences Act 1954 to criminalize the deliberate use of malicious and biased reporting as a form of undue influence.
BERSIH has been calling for the EC to encourage televised election debates and allocate fair airtime for all contesting parties RTM but all our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
5. 21-day Campaign Period
BERSIH has also called for a 21-day campaign period, which is half of what Malayan voters enjoyed in 1955 when the country was ruled by the British. An adequately sufficient campaign period allows voters to get different views and relevant information, especially on new candidates from both the ruling and opposition parties.
This request has also been turned down by the EC, which has given a paltry 13-day campaign period for the upcoming election.
WHY A ROYAL COMMISSION ON ELECTORAL REFORM IS NECESSARY
Given the presence of blatant fraudulent practices and the absence of a level playing field, BERSIH appeals to DYMM Yang DiPertuan Agong to appoint a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER) immediately after the elections. Under the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 (Revised 1973), His Majesty the King may, where it appears to him to be expedient so to do, issue a Commission appointing one or more Commissioners and authorizing the Commissioners to enquire into –
• the conduct of any federal officer;
• the conduct or management of any department of the public service of Malaysia;
• the conduct or management of any public institution which is not solely maintained by State funds; or
• any other matter in which an enquiry would, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, be for the public welfare (other than a matter involving any question relating to the Islamic religion or the Malay custom and/or inquiries for state purposes where Sabah or Sarawak are concerned).
The RCER’s terms of reference should cover:
(a) matters of cleanness, freeness and fairness in the entire electoral process, including the electoral roll and polling, campaigning, electoral administration and electoral system;
(b) fact-finding and investigation into any allegations of election fraud, irregularities and misconduct in the 12th General Elections.
BERSIH hereby launches a nationwide signature campaign for the RCER. We appeal to all parties and candidates to support the campaign. We also appeal to all voters to record and document any instances of election fraud, irregularities and misconduct – such as phantom voters, impersonation, multiple voting, vote-buying, intimidation, breach of secrecy – in words or audio-visual form ready to be submitted to the RCER.
BERSIH has full confidence that the King will stand for and stand by democracy in Malaysia, as per his role and responsibility entrusted by the Federal Constitution.