10 August 2007
BERSIH welcomes the Majlis Fatwa’s decision regarding the use of indelible ink in the upcoming General Election. As far as BERSIH understands, that was the final hurdle for this new initiative.
BERSIH would also like to commend the Election Commission (EC) for agreeing with our suggestion and helping to make it a reality. This latest move will no doubt strengthen our democratic institutions and increase the legitimacy of the elected government.
As the use of indelible ink involves certain important procedural steps, BERSIH will also draft and forward to the EC its proposals on the proper implementation of this matter. The use of indelible ink is one of the five administrative demands BERSIH has requested of the EC in its campaign for clean, free and fair elections in Malaysia.
The other short-term administrative reforms include:
Comprehensive cleanup of 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.
The abolition of postal voting
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 just like any other voter.
21-day campaign period
The campaign period should be a minimum of 21 days, if not five weeks. A short campaign period tends to disadvantage opposition parties, which operate with fewer resources than the Government. 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.
Equitable media access
i) All parties should have equal access to local and national media, particularly during the campaigning period. Paid advertisements should be accepted by the mass media without discrimination. The EC should champion rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information, in order to ensure a more level playing field during elections.
ii) Further, a code of conduct should 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, with a ‘right of reply’ mechanism enshrined.
In a meeting with the EC Deputy Chairman Dato’ Haji Wan Ahmad bin Wan Omar and four other Commissioners on 7 August 2007, BERSIH was assured that the police force (PDRM) had agreed to allow polling agents to observe the casting of postal votes at the respective polling stations. On the same issue, the EC is still awaiting a response from the armed forces.
While this is not a perfect solution to the problem of abuse in the postal voting system, BERSIH hopes that this move will contribute towards a more transparent and credible postal voting system. We call upon Minister of Defence Dato’ Seri Najib and the army leadership to do their part in reforming our electoral process and restoring public confidence.
In the same meeting, BERSIH learnt that most of the 22,433 registered voters whose names were not found in the National Registration Department’s database have been removed from the electoral roll. These names were displayed at EC offices nationwide for a week from 15 July to 21 July 2007, in order for the said voters to verify their citizenship and be eligible to vote.
BERSIH is deeply concerned with the removal of these names and urges the EC to publish the list of names on its website, for the sake of transparency and accountability. The list should be made accessible to interested parties to ensure there is no ‘accidental deletion’ of genuine voters’ names. While we commend the EC for its good efforts in cleaning up the electoral roll, their actions must not be at the expense of the rights of genuine voters.
At the same time, BERSIH would like to call upon all Malaysians to check their voter status as soon as possible, to avoid being unable to vote during the General Election. Voters should also check their voting localities to ensure that they have not been moved to another polling location.
Finally, in light of the favourable news on indelible ink, BERSIH is now even more encouraged and determined in its campaign to press for more reforms in our electoral system as well as the election process.