(The Sun) Election panel must adjust to the times

Now that the Election Commission itself has said that it wants to be reformed to make it independent so as to improve its integrity, it is about time that the powers-that-be start the process of reviewing the workings of the panel that was established more than five decades ago. The commission has also called for the overhaul of some of the election laws that were drafted then but are still in use today in the conduct of elections.

Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman must be commended for wanting to review and restructure the election panel and for calling for an independent commission to be set up to do the job. Many calls for reforms have been made, including those by opposition parties and NGOs, in the past and more so after the 2004 general election when the Barisan Nasional won its biggest national mandate, sweeping 91% of the 219 seats in the Dewan Rakyat and strengthening itself in all the 13 state legislatures, except for Kelantan which it nearly captured.
Abdul Rashid had himself called for the setting up of an independent body to investigate the election panel following allegations of improprieties during that general election and told political parties that he was prepared to listen to their proposals on the reforms to be made. Opposition parties had described the commission as “full of empty talk” after the proposals they made were not implemented.
The reforms that the election commission has called for include some of the suggestions made by political parties and some of those by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih), in which the MTUC is playing a prominent part. It also wants power to ensure, among other things, that there is fair and free reporting by the local media, power to prosecute persons who misuse public facilities for their campaign and power to control and prevent corruption and vote-buying during elections.
The commission’s calls for changes have been rejected before and, as such, there is little reason to be hopeful that its recommendations will be seriously considered by the government this time around.
But we can always pray for the changes in the interest of the integrity of the commission and the country’s elections.