The EC Must Address These Doubts

By Kee Thuan Chye | Saturday, 13 April 2013 17:19
Malaysian Digest

WHILE announcing the date for the 13th general election, the Election Commission (EC) also said that it would make the event “the best” ever held. In pledging this, its chairman, Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, reiterated what he had said on Feb 5.

But somehow the pledge rings hollow. Many Malaysians have lost too much confidence in the EC to believe that it will be, in Abdul Aziz’s words, “transparent” and that it “will not help any party to win”. Its actions and pronouncements have too often indicated the contrary.

Besides that, NGOs that have engaged with the EC know how frustrating the experience can be. The latter is notorious for not replying to pressing questions concerning the electoral process or improper conduct at elections. Its dismissal of Bersih’s demands for electoral reform compelled the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections to take its cause to the streets in July 2011.

The EC is also noted for its apparently cavalier attitude towards calls for cleaning the electoral roll. Instead of getting down to the task of doing it, it has been giving excuses – even though a Merdeka Center survey in April 2012 revealed that 92% of Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia want the roll cleaned.

The biggest joke, made in April 2012, was Abdul Aziz’s declaration that the Malaysian electoral roll was “the cleanest in the world”. He said there were only 42,000 dubious voters out of the 12.6 million registered, which works out to a mere 0.3%.

But political scientist Ong Kian Ming had a radically different figure to present. Ong said an analysis conducted under one of his projects showed that the number of dubious voters was 3.3 million.

Apart from dubious voters, missing names and other anomalies have reportedly been found in the constituencies of Klang MP Charles Santiago and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, both from Pakatan Rakyat.

But when they both requested the EC to look into the matter, it did not respond accordingly. Both were forced to go to the High Court. However, Section 9A of the Elections Act denies the courts jurisdiction in regard to the electoral roll, so their cases were thrown out.

More distressing for Izzah is the sudden spike in the number of postal voters there. By the end of 2011, it had gone up by an unusual 1,400% from 2008. And since postal votes are known to favor the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, their increased presence could be a bane to the PKR vice-president.

As for the total number of voters in Lembah Pantai, there has been, according to Izzah, a phenomenal increase of 15,000. While some are newly registered voters, many more appear to have been transferred there, for reasons known only to the EC.

With the general election coming up on May 5, what happens now to the discrepancies in the electoral roll? Do Malaysians go to the polls with doubt in their minds about whether the process might be compromised and phantom voting might influence the outcome unfairly?

What about newly registered voters who find they are no longer registered?

Someone who had confirmed in 2010 that he was a registered voter got a shock when he checked his polling station online last week at the EC’s website and was greeted with this: “Record not found.”

He went to the EC’s headquarters in Putrajaya to find out what had happened. The counter clerk asked for his identity card number and after keying it into the system found that all his personal details were in there but he was not a registered voter.

He was flabbergasted. How could the EC have his personal details in its system if he was not a registered voter?

When he asked for the situation to be rectified, the clerk merely told him to register again – and wait to vote at the next general election!

Angry and disappointed, he posted his story on Facebook and several others responded with similar ones. Like him, they were also new voters.

Is this another example of a compromised electoral roll? Is the EC shedding new voters because it’s worried about whom they will vote for? How many more have been deprived of their right to vote?

Meanwhile, Tindak Malaysia, an election watch NGO, has just raised reasonable doubts about the EC’s instructions on the use of indelible ink.

A Bersih demand that the EC acceded to, the use of indelible ink is aimed at preventing double, even multiple voting. But the EC has decided that those who will be voting before the actual election day, which would include its own officials, are to be considered postal voters and therefore exempted from having their fingers marked with indelible ink.

As this involves a huge number of voters because the EC officials alone already add up to about 300,000, what is there to prevent some of them from surreptitiously voting again on election day itself since their fingers are not marked?

Another curious decision made by the EC is that the indelible ink would be applied on each voter before they cast their vote.

Tindak Malaysia has tried this out in a practice run and found that it’s a bad idea because it could result in the ballot paper getting smudged, which could lead to the vote being considered spoilt.

Worse, prior application of the ink will also slow down the voting flow. Tindak Malaysia has timed the process of applying the ink and waiting for it to dry at between 50 seconds and two minutes. If it takes that long per voter in an average voting stream of about 700 voters, the stipulated nine hours on election day will not accommodate even half of that number.

According to Tindak Malaysia’s estimation, if this procedure were to be followed, as low as only 38% of the people queuing up would get to vote!

The NGO proposes instead that the voter’s finger be marked after they have voted. This makes sense because no one will be held back waiting for the voter ahead of them. It will neither disrupt nor slow down the voting flow. It will also prevent smudging of the ballot paper.

In fact, this is the way it is done at elections in other countries. So why has the EC chosen to do it the opposite way?

Tindak Malaysia has tried contacting the EC for answers, but, as usual, the latter has not responded.

Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recommends that election commissions using indelible ink for the first time should carry out open trial runs before election day, in order to instil confidence in the voting public.

If the EC doesn’t carry that out, the public should pressure it to do so. Otherwise, “the best” general election might well turn out to be neither free nor fair. It could even become the dirtiest one ever.

*Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More! The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 10:39 pm

    Replace the entire crooked EC team when PR captures Putrajaya.

  2. #2 by Noble House on Sunday, 14 April 2013 - 4:19 am

    The EC, as we all know, is the 15th component party in the BN. Its job is to make sure that UMNO/BN wins in every election by hook or by crook. All these talks about the EC being independent and the electoral roll clean are all nonsense. They have already shown what they could do with the advantages.

  3. #3 by chengho on Sunday, 14 April 2013 - 5:20 am

    make it voting is mandatory by law when u turn 21

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