Malaysiakini: Minor amendments to election laws

Polling stations will now be known as polling centres. The Chief Registrar of Electors will now have a deputy, who can perform similar functions.In addition, Registrar of Electors of each state will also have deputies, with the number of assistant registrars as deemed necessary.These are amendments to be to the Election Act 1958, as the bill went through its second reading in Parliament today.

In the three hour debate session today, DAP legislators called for reforms on the election laws with the opposition MPs accusing the Election Commission (EC) of being in cohorts with the ruling BN government.
Fong Kui Lun (DAP – Bukit Bintang) said EC was not independent, describing the commission as a government agency.
He said there were problems registering voters through the post office. Agreeing with this, Teresa Kok (DAP – Seputeh) said the electoral roll has yet to be cleaned up as addresses of voters are not updated because they are registered outside of their current residence.
Fong Po Kuan (DAP – Batu Gajah) lamented that although six of her family members reside in Gopeng, four of them are registered to vote in the Ipoh Timur constituency.
M Kulasegaran (DAP – Ipoh Barat) said the EC has failed to inspire “public confidence” in its integrity and said it was influenced by the ruling government.
“The SPR (EC) is not free. It is a government agency. It is acting by the will of the government,” he said.
Kulasegaran said that amendments has been made to the Federal Constitution since independence to favour the ruling government.
“What is the point of having a transparent ballot box, when the EC cannot be transparent in its function,” he said.
BN gerrymandering?
Kulasegaran also criticised delays by the government to allow voter registration to be carried out online.
Chong Chieng Jen (DAP – Bandar Kuching) said there is a need for observers from political parties to be present at voting booths for postal voters to ensure fairness.
“Why are political parties not allowed to send representatives to oversee postal voting. Is the postal voting system a fraud, an operational centre for the BN to maintain power?” he said.
Chong said postal voting from an army base in the Kota Sentosa state constituency had reduced his majority. Chong had stood, and won, as a candidate for the seat in the 2006 Sarawak state elections.
“I was informed that the postal voters are to vote for their respective constituencies back home. But this was proven wrong, when the postal votes was used in areas outside of their constituency.”
“Is this some form of gerrymandering, where the BN increases their chances of victory? In Sarawak, if it was not for the postal votes, BN would have lost more [state] seats,” he said.
People’s mandate
Replying to this, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz said Parliament does not have a say how the army carries out the manner of voting. He added that the Election Commission is under the purview of the Parliament and “does not create acts by itself.”
“The EC has to pass through Parliament. This is the reality of the political system in this country. Anything that needs to be done, has to go through Parliament. And amendments will have to go through majority vote in Parliament. And BN has 92 percent of the seats in Parliament. That’s the reality.
“It is not what I or what Sri Gading or Mambong wants. It is the will of the people, because the people place BN to take charge of the country. If you are upset, please go and scold them now. In the next election, go to the ground and tell the people not to vote for BN. We make decisions based on the mandate that was given to us by the people.
Later, Kulasegaran said the government was not actively pursuing voter registration for the young voters.
He said this “because many of the younger voters are likely to vote opposition,” which was greeted with laughter and jeers by BN MPs.
“If people are not interested in voting, why force them. If like you said, they don’t believe in the integrity of SPR (EC), they wouldn’t vote anyway. We have to give democratic rights to the youths. If they choose not to registered, that is also their right,” said Nazri.
Parliament ended its current session today and will resume on August 22.