Election Commission: Apparent Bias

by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

The Chairman of the Election Commission and his Deputy must resign immediately. In the wake of accusations by the Opposition that they are members of UMNO, they have admitted the same.

It is self-evident that they can no longer hold their positions as the head and deputy head of the Election Commission, a body established by the Federal Constitution for the sole purpose of ensuring that the general elections of the Federation and States are run in a manner that ensure public confidence. Put another way, as has been consistently emphasized by the Coalition on Free and Fair Elections, the Election Commission must act in a manner that is seen to be impartial.

That the perception of impartiality is of crucial significance is underscored by Article 113 of the Federal Constitution, the provision which establishes the Election Commission. 113(2) provides:

“In appointing members of the Election Commission the Yang di- Pertuan Agong shall have regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence.”

It is manifest that a member of a political party that will participate, or which may potentially participate, in any general election cannot be made members of the Election Commission. The fact that they are members of a political party is indicative of their political loyalties being to that party. This creates an obvious conflict of interest. This is reinforced in situations where the party Constitution requires allegiance, as I believe the UMNO constitution does.

In the context of UMNO, this issue takes on added significance. Accusations have been made that the Election Commission has conducted itself in a manner that lend to an impression of bias. Leave aside the question of whether there is actual bias, the fact that there is an apprehension of bias is in itself sufficient for concerns to have been raised. To this it must now be added that  the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Election Commission have been revealed to be members of UMNO. This will only fuel further speculation of bias. This in turn will add to an already high degree of resentment amongst voters about the way in which they perceive the electoral process to have been manipulated. 

It is no significance that the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman were not active members or had forgotten that they are members. The fact that they are members is in itself sufficient to create the conflict of interest. One wonders whether they would have been endorsed by the Conference of Rulers and appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (as is required under Article 113(1)) if this fact were known.

In the circumstance it appears that there is little choice in the matter. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman must resign. It cannot end there though. The Government must take steps to convince Malaysians that measures that have been taken thus far with regard the imminent General Election have been consistent with the highest expectations of a clean and fair election. If the Government calls for a General Election under this cloud, then it will reinforce the belief of many Malaysians that the electoral process has been hijacked. 

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 2:22 pm

    ‘Apparent’ bias is good enough for them to be disqualified. They need to do the necessary if they are ‘honourable’ people.

    Much has been said and written about the Chairman and Deputy Chairman. They are only two members of the EC. Who are the other members of the EC? Why are they so silent, so out of the limelight?

    Why is THAT ‘social activist’ so silent? He has been a very good, obedient boy these years.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 4:28 pm


    This is the only EC in the world where its chief and his deputy are officially members of a party that contests elections:

    Abdul Aziz and Wan Ahmad’s Umno membership details are as follows:

    Abdul Aziz:

    Umno membership number: 113804

    Branch code: 09920036 (Sri Ampang Baru)

    Assembly seat code: 09920 (Lembah Jaya)

    Division code: 009 (Ampang)

    State: Selangor

    Wan Ahmad:

    Umno membership number: 2374564

    Branch Code: 02213049 (Kubang Bunggor)

    Assembly seat code: 02213 (Chetok)

    Division code 022 (Pasir Mas)

    State: Kelantan

  3. #3 by Cinapek on Friday, 27 April 2012 - 5:40 pm

    “….One wonders whether they would have been endorsed by the Conference of Rulers and appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (as is required under Article 113(1)) if this fact were known…”

    Hmmm. Yes, One wonders.

    Has these two wonderfully loyal UMNO members also declared their membership when they were being appointed? And if they did not, would they have commited any offence?

    And what about the person (the PM ?) who recommended them for appointment? Has he also committed an offence in misleading their Majesties when he recommended these two UMNO members to be the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the “independent” Election Commission in deliberate violation of the Federal Constitution?

    What a farce!!!

  4. #4 by SENGLANG on Saturday, 28 April 2012 - 10:11 am

    If a school boy say he could not remember that presume ok, but you have a chairman of EC say he could not remember that he has been member. Can you believe that? Again it is no a matter of believe in it or not, but the fact was that. Remember or other wise, he has to own up to that fact he was a member then or even now. As a chairman he must take responsibility but not merely saying that stupid statement of not remembering that he has been a member. Was it because what the famous Tun also has short memory when come to certain issue that was against their favour?

    As a chairman of EC carry with him great responsibility. He must understand that. If he fail to discharge his duties and responsibilities with fair and true independent, he owe a debt to the whole nation. That was great sin a person can ever commit. It is a treason to the nation and GE will determine the formation of people elected Parliament that will rule the nation for the next few years.

    He has no chose but only take responsibility and resign. He can’t simply say being a member of a political party will not affect his impartiality. This issue has made Bersih demands become not only relevant but a must.

  5. #5 by negarawan on Saturday, 28 April 2012 - 11:04 am

    It has come to a point where international pressure is crucial to get things moving in the right direction in Malaysia. We urge international bodies to intervene urgently.

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