(The Sun) Parties, NGOs welcome EC call for review

Husna Yusop

PETALING JAYA (Jan 9, 2007): Opposition parties and non-governmental organisations have welcomed the “confession” by the Election Commission (EC) on the way elections were being conducted.
They agreed that, with a more independent EC, comprising members with high integrity and credibility, Malaysians will be able to benefit from a more transparent and neutral election.

Yesterday, EC chairman Tan Sri Ab Rashid Ab Rahman had proposed the setting up of an independent commission to review election laws and regulations and restructure the EC.
He wanted the review to give wider power to the EC so that it could make the election process more transparent, just and fair to all political parties and the people.
Ab Rashid also said an independent commission should be set up to oversee the changes as the laws had not been altered for the past 50 years despite the country having undergone tremendous changes in its social order and its development.
Among the changes sought by the EC were letting the commission have the authority to decide on the formation of political parties and their freedom to participate in elections.
The reaction:
> DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng questioned the rationale of having an independent commission if the existing rules and regulations are not fully enforced.
He took Ab Rashid to task for not taking action when rules were breached, saying that he should go.
“What is the point of having a new set of laws while the issue is actually about failure of enforcement?” he said.
On Ab Rashid’s call for wider power, Lim said as it is now, the EC has the power but it is limited. He however agreed the electoral laws could be improved and updated.
Lim suggested the EC be led by one with high integrity, credibility and moral authority, citing former Transparency International president Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim as the best person.
> PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa said Abdul Rashid’s statement reflected on the need to review the existing laws and correct the current basic democratic practices.
“He has spoken for himself. Even with the existing power, the EC has not been consistent, nor transparent. It is timely for the government to review all policies on elections.
“Our democratic practices must be credible and legitimate. Then only it would restore the people’s confidence of the system,” he said.
Among the policies he said must be reviewed are the need for a caretaker government during election, the use of thumbprint when voting and the period before the date of the dissolution of parliament.
> Keadilan adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said Abdul Rashid’s statement was an inadvertent admission of the serious flaws, blatant abuses and manifest disregard for democratic principles in our elections.
> The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) said the EC must be given more power so that it is fully independent but it must be answerable to the King and the rakyat, not the ruling government.
“It should not be placed under the Prime Minister’s Department,” its spokesman Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud said, adding the EC must comprise public figures with integrity, credibility and are well-respected.
He also agreed the existing election rules and laws had not been fully enforced and many abuses within the laws had been overlooked by the EC.
Abdul Rashid had earlier said that he was not making an official proposal to the government on his proposal.
When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was asked about it, he said tersely: “Let him (Abdul Rashid) tell me what he wants.”