Monitoring the Dirtiest Elections Ever

by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Monday, 04 April 2011

According to Bernama, the Election Commission (EC) has decided not to give accreditation to Mafrel (Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections) to be an independent observer in the Sarawak state election, polling of which is to take place on April 16.

EC secretary Datuk Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria is reported to have said that this was because Mafrel had failed to fully comply with EC’s requirements. “Among them is for Mafrel and its affiliates to be non-partisan in their work,” he said in a statement.

This statement coming from the EC makes it clear that the Government is afraid of –and will prevent – independent observers from monitoring the coming Sarawak election which, in all likelihood, will be the dirtiest one ever since the stakes are so high. Sarawak has to date been the biggest of the BN’s electoral fixed deposit. If Sarawak goes to the opposition or if the expected landslide for the BN component parties does not take place, it could be a precursor to the BN losing power at the national level in the coming general election.

The EC must be fully aware of what an election setback in Sarawak could mean for the Barisan and of the strong possibility of all types of election malpractices and abuses to be rampant in this election. Hence it may appear surprising to the casual observer that the EC is standing in the way of Mafrel’s work and preventing the monitoring of the election by a body which many observers see as an independent and credible organization without any political affiliation.

On the other hand, the decision by the EC is not unexpected. The Commission has long been seen as a political lap dog of the BN Government and analysts have speculated that the Government will use every means possible to prevent any independent monitoring of this watershed election from taking place and to ensuring a favourable outcome for itself.

How will electoral fraud and abuse take place in Sarawak? Some of the most prominent forms include the following:

Manipulation of voter registration and postal voters
Polling arrangements
Vote counting/tabulation/reporting
Biased electoral authority
Dispute adjudication
Media coverage
Misuse of resources
Vote buying
Voter intimidation and/or obstruction
Candidate intimidation and/or obstruction
Legal framework

Finally, this list includes the blocking of observer access to the voting process – a measure which is right now being implemented by the EC.

Election Commission’s Track Record

The outstanding record of the EC in ensuring elections which are unfair and have little credibility and integrity is clear from the excerpts below of a paper written on the 2004 election by a scholar who has observed elections in the country since the 1970’s.

The only way for the EC to remove any suspicion that the coming elections is truly fair and free is for it to proactively deal with the the abuses identified above as well as those specified below and to permit observers – both local and international – into Sarawak.

Otherwise, the coming elections – predicted by many to be the dirtiest ever in the country – will see the government’s reputation for not adhering to democratic norms further besmirched and the moral legitimacy of BN rule blackened even more.

Excerpts from John Funston, “ The Malay electorate in 2004: reversing the 1999 result?” In Malaysia: Recent Trends and Challenges, edited by Saw Swee-Hock and K. Kesavapany. ISEAS, Singapore, 2006: 132-156.

Funston begins by noting that prior to the election the EC carried out an electoral redistribution, and a ‘cleansing’ of the electoral roll, both designed to assist the government.

“An electoral redistribution carried out by the Election Commission (EC) added 26 seats to parliament, most in areas favourable to UMNO in the south (Johor from 20-26, Selangor 17-22), and Sabah (20-25). The northern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah had no additions. Furthermore, several seats in Kedah won by PAS in 1999 were reorganised with a higher proportion of non-Malay voters, making a repeat PAS victory unlikely. A columnist in the pro-government The Star, noted that constituencies for the PAS secretary-general and the party’s former youth chief, had been redrawn to include a sizable number of non-Muslim voters who were previously in other constituencies. ‘The Barisan’, he noted, ‘is putting in extra efforts to win back the lost seats because gerrymandering, common in all democracies, has always benefited the ruling parties’.

After 1999 the EC also began a process of cleaning up the election rolls, announcing in January [2004] that some 50,000 had been deleted as a result. In fact, an even more substantial reorganisation must have taken place .. [as].. total eligible voters increased to 10,276,173 from 9,566,188, an addition of 709,985 (7.4%). It should have been much larger. At the end of 1999 at least 680,000 were on the rolls but not gazetted at the time of the election. Increased EC efforts to enroll voters after this should in the next four years have added at least 1,200,000, resulting in a cumulative total of 1,880,000 – which even allowing for 50,000 deletions and other routine changes is not reflected in the 2004 electorate. The NGO Aliran was among those that discovered several anomalies in the rolls, including for example the fact that in Sungai Siput ({Perak), an operations centre for Malaysian Indian Congress leader Datuk Samy Vellu, ‘which is an office, had 12 registered voters. Large numbers of voters were falsely registered at fictitious addresses where there were no houses . In Pandamaran in Klang a one-room flat had 150 registered voters.’

Many such anomalies may have been unintended errors, but several commentators were left suspicious. An Aliran spokesman commented that in Sungai Siput, for example, ‘we are told that some 5,000 voters from outside this constituency have been registered to vote here’. The increase in voter numbers in the critical state of Terengganu by 17.7%, against the average of 7.4%, raises further questions about the roll reorganisation.”

Funston then moves to discussing EC election oversight.

“The most controversial aspect of the 2004 election campaign was its management by the EC. The elections were the most disorganised and contested ever. In some cases this may simply have reflected incompetence, but EC activities frequently provided direct benefits to the BN, as they had in the revisions of electoral boundaries and membership of the electoral roll. Some of the highlights were:

• On 4 March [2004] the EC chair Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman announced that three of keADILan’s top leaders would not be able to stand, because they had court convictions. But all three were appealing their sentence, and as recently as Oct 23 2003 Abdul Rashid had declared that ‘an election candidate sentenced to more than a year in jail and RM2,000 fine can still contest if the candidate is allowed a stay of execution pending appeal’.

• The EC then announced the shortest campaign period ever, of 8 days. Critics were convinced that this reflected the government’s bidding. Aliran commented: ‘When the EC rushed to hold the election in the shortest possible time, it is clearly meant to favour the BN and put the Opposition and the independents in a quandary… There is hardly any time to print posters and prepare banners and other election paraphernalia. The BN’s arsenal of armoury is already in full swing because they are the ones who knew the timing of the election.’

• Polling stations were not announced until the day before elections. Many voters went to their usual station and found they had been registered elsewhere.

• Contrary to the electoral law the EC announced two days before voting (19 March) that party-run information booths would be permitted just outside polling stations. The BN had already constructed their’s, while the opposition had no time to do so.

• Numerous opposition reports cite instances of the EC (and police) turning a blind eye to BN illegalities, while closely policing the opposition.

• The EC provided the BN with names and addresses of 600,000 voters registered in constituencies outside their place of residence, enabling the prime minister to write a moving ‘personal’ letter urging them to vote and have a safe journey.

• The EC claimed to have gazetted all voters on 3 April, but the lists provided to political parties cited gazetting on various dates, including 15 March, 16 March and in one case 23 March. Moreover these lists were not identical.

• In Selangor state the EC extended the voting for a further two hours, though this was against the electoral law.

• On Election Day thousands went to vote and found their names were not on lists, or that they had been registered elsewhere. KeADILan claimed that at a conservative estimate 500,000 were denied the right to vote, 250,000 in Selangor alone. .. Even the pro-government New Straits Times lamented that ‘The Election Commission’s handling of some constituencies in Sunday’s election caused embarrassment to anyone with any faith in Malaysian democracy’.

• When election results began to appear on the EC website from the eve of 21 March many of the results were greeted with incredulity. In the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat 98.7% were recorded as having voted. This constituency also recorded 10,254 ‘unreturned’ ballots, while unreturned ballots for the constituency’s state seats – which should have been similar – amounted to only 124. A total of 17,960 ballots, or 57.5 percent, were recorded as unreturned in the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat. And for the state seat of Pankor in Perak state a total of 5,108 ballots were recorded as unreturned out of the 6,712 issued. When these discrepancies were pointed out in Malaysiakini, the figures suddenly disappeared and new ones replaced them. Even so, the EC chair said in mid April that more than 67,000 postal votes, 35,190 for parliamentary seats and 31,984 for states, had gone missing. This represented 17.53 per cent and 15.4 per cent, respectively, of the total 200,712 postal ballots issued.

• Besides such anomalies, voting figures in areas that have generally favoured the opposition were abnormally high. The increase in voter turnout in Terengganu, for example, by nearly 6% at the federal level and 7% for the state, to 85.5% and 86.9% respectively, is particularly difficult to understand, in an election were overall voter turnout only just exceeded that in 1999. Such levels had never been achieved in the past.”

Funston concludes by noting that while overall the election was a strong endorsement of the government, and in particular new Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, “The controversial and contested nature of the election did .. cast a shadow over Abdullah’s victory.”

  1. #1 by dagen on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 11:49 am

    Non-partisan means favouring umno. Otherwise, you are partisan. So, if you favour say a dog over umno, then that would effectively make you partisan. The same result would follow if you favour rambutans or asam laksa over umno. You too would then be partisan.

    Hope I explain the issue with sufficient clarity for the benefit of everyone here.

    … hey jib where is my 10,000 ringgit for explaining? Celaka si botak tu!

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 12:26 pm

    Open secret what, very dirty tactics n frauds practised, but as NR n UmnoB sneer with glee: So what? What can U do? Apa U nak buat? We control semua mah, go cry lah losers

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 12:47 pm

    The current blitz on the Customs Department and subsequently on those involved with them is something we all can expect after the past 30 years of wantonness of free-flow of actions. How would you blame those greedy officers when they look around and found that the political leadership have their own agenda?. So after over 30 years, do you think this can be resolved so easily? The cancer has set in, for any change to take place; we need more than mere lip-service.

  4. #4 by k1980 on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 12:55 pm

    Those 62 Customs Department personnel are damn lucky to be serving in malaysia. They would had found themselves with bullet holes shot through the back of their skulls had they been serving in China.

  5. #5 by ekompute on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 12:56 pm

    Dagen says: “Non-partisan means favouring UMNO”. That’s right. I have lost trust in all BN politicians and the senior staffs of all Malaysian government institutions. None of them seem to me to have even an iota of self-respect and principles.

  6. #6 by Godfather on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 2:27 pm

    Just be ready to provide the reps at every polling centre a proper camcorder or a phone with a long battery life that can record “unusual” happenings. They won’t play games in the towns because these are generally foregone conclusions, but they will play dirty as usual in the rural precincts.

  7. #7 by Winston on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 2:32 pm

    Is it possible to get overseas’ monitoring units to ensure the voting is fair and clean?
    Since they are not locals, their impartiality is not in doubt.
    How’s that?

  8. #8 by ekompute on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 2:46 pm

    Winston asks, “Is it possible to get overseas’ monitoring units to ensure the voting is fair and clean? Since they are not locals, their impartiality is not in doubt.”

    BN needs to win this election desperately, whether by hook or by crook. So do you think it is possible to get overseas’ monitoring?

  9. #9 by k1980 on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 2:57 pm

    A Tale of Malaysia Boleh

    Once upon a time, 20 years ago,

    After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, British scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 200 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 150 years ago.

    Not to be outdone by the Brits, in the weeks that followed, an American archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story was published in the New York Times:

    “American archaeologists had found traces of 250-year-old copper wire. They concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network 50 years earlier than the British”.

    One week later, the Dept of Minerals and Energy in Malaysia, reported the following:

    “After digging as deep as 30 feet in North Central Kedah region, Mahathir Mohammed, a self-taught archaeologist from Kerala, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Mahathir therefore concluded that 250 years ago, Malaysia had already gone wireless.”

  10. #10 by yhsiew on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 4:09 pm

    The emergence of the Carcosa sex video indicates UMNO/BN anxiety over the Sarawak and GE 13 elections. If they are confident of winning, they would not have come up with the sex video.

    Since the Carcosa sex video has failed to create a profound impact on the rakyat, it is not at all surprisig that UMNO/BN now has to resort to the dirtiest tactics to make sure they win the elections.

  11. #11 by monsterball on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 4:18 pm

    It is obvious nd simple.
    EC is playing his dirtiest part for a rigged election without observers.
    But you can bet hundreds of volunteers…will watch the ballot boxes stores against mgicians switching them.
    There are dozens approved and recognised NGOs. Is he banning all observers?
    And so many I spoke to in past watches is watching and not trusting the Govt to have afair election.
    You mean our EC does not know…no one trust the Govt.?

  12. #12 by boh-liao on Monday, 4 April 2011 - 5:59 pm

    Is it true: Suddenly, almost instantly, lots of illegal migrants became citizens of 1M’sia with voting rights 2 vote only 4 UmnoB/BN in marginal seats

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