Taking a leaf out of the Australian election book

Press statement
17 October 2007
Taking a leaf out of the Australian election book
BERSIH calls on the Malaysian Election Commission to emulate its counterpart in Australia, a fellow Commonwealth country which shares the Westminster heritage.
On Sunday, 14 October 2007, Australian Prime Minister John Howard dissolved Parliament for polling on 24 November 2007. In other words, contesting parties in Australia have a lavish 42-day campaign period to convince the voters of their message. Australian laws require a minimum of a 35-day or 5-week campaign period.

Like most mature democracies, Australia allows for a campaign period that is sufficient for candidates to engage the electorate, and vise versa.
In the case of Malaysia unfortunately, the situation has been one of decline and degeneration. The first federal election in Malaya in 1955 had a 42-day campaign period.
It was 5 weeks or approximately 35 days for the first three elections (1959, 1964, and 1969) after independence; and slightly more than two weeks for 1974, 1978 and 1982 elections.
Campaign period for the four subsequent elections (1986, 1990, 1995, and 1999) under Prime Minister Mahathir’s watch was either nine or 10 days. The 2004 election saw the shortest ever campaign period — eight days.
Recently, Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Rashid Abdul Rahman hinted that the upcoming election may see a slightly longer campaign period although “not more than two weeks”.
BERSIH is calling for a modest 21-day campaign period, half of what we used to have in 1955, in order to allow the electorate to get to know their candidates and the message they are advocating.
This is especially important when the mainstream electronic media is one-sided in its reporting. A longer campaign period would level the playing field and empower the citizenry as they can scrutinize the candidates in a more meaningful way.