Polls watchdog wants 21-day campaigning

Malaysiakini, Oct 17, 07   
Election watchdog Bersih wants the government to implement a 21-day campaigning period for the upcoming general election.

They reasoned that only through a sufficient amount of campaign time can elections be more meaningful as voters could have more time to familiarise themselves with the candidates and the messages they intend to advocate.
In a press statement released today, Bersih cited Australia as an example the Malaysian government should follow.
“Australia is a commonwealth nation that practices the Westminster system similar to Malaysia but they have lavished contesting parties with ample campaigning time so candidates may engage their electorates and vice versa,” said the watchdog.
Last Sunday, Australian premier John Howard announced the country’s dissolution of Parliament for polling which is set for Nov 24
The move will provide political parties with a 42-day campaign period and the watchdog felt that the ‘lavish’ given time reflects the maturity of Australia’s democracy.
“Unfortunately for Malaysia, election has been of decline and degeneration. From 1986 to 1999 under the tenure of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the campaign period was only given an appalling 10-day and the recent general election in 2004 saw the shortest campaign period which is a mere 8-day,” read the press statement.
EC’s hint
Though Election Commission chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman hinted that upcoming general election may see an increase of campaign time to less than two weeks, Bersih however felt that it was still unacceptable.
“The 21-day campaign period is a modest demand and is especially important when the electronic-media is one-sided in its reporting.
“A longer campaign period would level the playing field and empower the citizenry as they can scrutinise the candidates in a more meaningful way.” added Bersih.
The general election, though not legally due until April 2009, is widely expected to be held within the next six months.
Bersih is a coalition of members from various political parties, students groups and human rights NGOs.