Bersih launched, calls for electoral reforms

Soon Li Tsin (Malaysiakini)
Nov 23, 06

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), launched today at Parliament House, immediately called on Election Commission (EC) chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman and his secretary Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor to implement electoral reforms in time for next year’s elections.

Bersih spokesperson and Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Mohamud laid down three specific reforms as the first step towards electoral reforms:
• the use of indelible ink (as is done in Indonesia and India) to prevent multiple voting
• the abolition of postal votes except for diplomats and overseas voters
• a complete revision of the electoral roll to ensure that the existing irregularities are removed and a roll with full integrity is in place.
He said that Bersih will call for Abdul Rashid and Kamaruzaman’s resignations should they fail to see a positive response from them.
DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng raised the issue of excessive expenditure made by Barisan Nasional in the previous election which was punishable by law.
“The limit according to the law is RM88.3 million but BN spent RM110 million in 2004. By failing to act on this, the EC is guilty of abetting electoral fraud and corrupt practices,” he said.
He noted that elections can never be free and fair if laws found in the Election Offences Act are not enforced.
Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) pro tem secretary general S Arutchelvan observed that Bersih is not asking for much.
Not permitted to register
“If we look at it, the 2004 polls were dirty and carried out at a time where the prime minister was a so-called ‘Mr Clean’. We’re not asking for much and these reforms can be carried out immediately,” he said.
He also noted a problem where many non-BN parties were not allowed to be registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS).
PSM had been seeking formal registration with the ROS since 1998 and since 1994, not a single new opposition party had been registered, the only exception being the State Reform Party (Star) of Sarawak which was registered in 1996.
Also present at the launch were Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng and other NGO representatives. The event was chaired by Wong Chin Huat from the Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence.
* Bersih is a coalition of five political parties and 17 civil society groups campaigning for electoral reforms. It was formed as a response to the public outcry over reported irregularities and controversies in the 2004 election where BN won a landslide victory led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.