3 July 2007
The Election Commission (EC) will only be able to implement the use of indelible ink to prevent multiple voting only after September.
This was revealed by representatives of election reforms pressure group Bersih after a three and a half hour dialogue with EC chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman in Putrajaya today.
Leader of the Bersih delegation Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad (photo: left) told reporters that Abdul Rashid showed the delegation a sample of an “Indian ink” to mark digits of voters who had cast their ballots.
However, he said this was subject to the approval of the Fatwa Council.
Last December, Abdul Rashid shot down the idea of using indelible ink as suggested by opposition parties as it was deemed to be an ‘archaic’ practice.
But in June, Abdul Rashid announced that the EC was studying ways of implementing the method which is used in Iraq and India, drawing protests from BN component parties.
He revealed that among the issues being considered by the EC in relation to the move was the type of ink to be used and the need to amend the relevant legislation such as the Election (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.
It is learnt that during today’s meeting, Abdul Rashid had told the Bersih delegation that the EC was not allowed by law, as yet, to compel all voters who had cast their ballots to be marked with indelible ink and such a move must be done voluntarily by the voters.
Journalists were unable to get an official comment from Abdul Rashid as they were barred from entering the EC headquarters where the meeting was held.
Another Bersih representative Ronnie Liu said Bersih had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a commitment from the EC to ensure that there would be no discrepancy in the electoral roll.
“We have taken the opportunity to inform the EC that in 2004, we were supposed to get electoral roll on nomination day but we didn’t. They admitted that they were kelam-kabut (in a mess).
“We pointed out that the electoral roll received by the (opposition) parties was different from the one received by BN (component parties)… of course they denied it… but we wanted a commitment from then that this won’t happen again,” said Liu.
Electoral rolls are updated every three months and the version of the roll used during an election is determined by the EC, which is distributed to contesting political parties after nomination day.
General elections and by-elections are often tainted with allegations of missing or ‘illegal’ voters in the electoral roll. Since the June 2002 amendments of the Election Act 1954, electoral rolls cannot be challenged in court.
Liu said Bersih also wants fair access to the media by opposition parties and longer campaigning periods.
Meanwhile, Dzulkifli said that Bersih was pleased with the outcome of the discussion and announced that another dialogue would be held next month.
“They showed us their ‘reform guidelines’. We were pleased that 90 percent of their points raised were similar to ours,” he said.
Bersih is a coalition of 26 NGOs and five opposition political parties, which includes PAS, PKR, PSM, DAP and Snap.
In another development, Bersih today announced that it would be organising a “People’s Convention” on July 20 at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall to allow the public to voice their concerns on election reforms.
Opposition figures such as Anwar Ibrahim, Abdul Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang are among the scheduled speakers.