BERSIH welcomes EC's decision on indelible ink

4 June 2007
Media Release
BERSIH welcomes the Election Commission’s decision to consider the use of indelible ink in elections. Its responsiveness to one of BERSIH’s three immediate demands will strengthen our democratic institutions and increase the legitimacy of the elected government.

This long-awaited decision is the result of the unwavering demands of the 64 NGOs and political parties that support BERSIH. This encouraging development suggests that civil society’s voice counts and all Malaysians who desire accountability, transparency and participation in public affairs must articulate and lobby for other forms of electoral and political reform.
However, the SPR must be seen to act speedily to ensure the implementation of indelible ink for the next election and further to make sure that such implementation is in accordance with internationally accepted best practices.
These efforts to promote democracy must be supported, nurtured and continued. BERSIH urges the Elections Commission to take up the other reform demands listed below:
1. Cleaning up the electoral roll
While indelible ink can eliminate multiple voting, it does not prevent the impersonation and involuntary transfer of voters. To ensure all legitimate voters and only all legitimate voters can vote in the elections, EC must advice against any decision by the government to hold elections before the electoral roll is satisfactorily cleaned up and updated.
2. Abolition of domestic postal voting
Dialogues and debate on the continuity or termination of this non-transparent process must begin immediately. Should the EC, security forces and others object to the abolition of this process, they must articulate their rationale publicly or else suggest ways to overcome the problems associated with this process, such as the disappearance of 5,000 ballots in Lumut over four consecutive elections since 1990.
With the exception of personnel who are on active duty on polling day, army and police personnel should be allowed to vote in polling centres. For personnel on active duty who are required to cast their votes before polling day, polling agents from the contesting parties should be allowed to observe the polling process.
We understand that EC Chairman is leaving office at the end of this year unless his term is extended by the Government. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid, who served as Secretary of the EC between 1979 and 1995, returned to serve as its Chairman since 2001. Unfortunately, the 2004 general election saw some of the worst irregularities ever and this trend worsened in the recent Ijok by-election. If Tan Sri Rashid wishes to leave office with some form of legacy of reform, we demand that the EC act on other more long-term actions such as:
1. Duration of campaigning period
The campaign period should be a minimum of 21 days, if not five weeks. Short campaign periods of less than 10 days must be reviewed. A shorter campaign period tends to disadvantage opposition parties, which operate with fewer resources than the Government, as well as lack access to state and public media. The Government’s prerogative to call an election as and when it suits its partisan interests is another reason why a longer campaign period is needed, in order to maintain a ‘level playing field’ for all parties.
2. Media access
All parties should have equal access to local and national media, particularly during the campaigning period. One administrative measure that could be taken would be an organized debate on national TV. The EC should champion rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information, in order to ensure a more level playing field during elections. Recognising problems with the concentration of media ownership in the hands of governing political parties, the EC should
further champion the cause of diversity of media ownership.
3. Right of reply
A code of conduct must be issued to ensure balanced reporting in all media, based on the Malaysian Press Institute’s code of ethics for election reporting, as presented in the draft Media Council Act 2001.