BERSIH calls for live election debates on RTM

Press Statement
29 October 2007

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) calls for live election debates over television and/or for the coming general elections. A live telecast debate involving political party members and candidates will be a significant leap forward for a more progressive Malaysia.

As the guardian of our electoral process, the Election Commission (EC) should request that, at the very least, Radio-Television Malaysia (RTM), if not also other private broadcasters, to host such live debates. As RTM operates on taxpayers’ money, it has an unarguable duty to serve its paymasters’ need for comprehensive and balanced information.
BERSIH questions the continued refusal by EC and RTM to provide Malaysians with what is the most basic and standard electioneering practice, a key feature of elections in most democratic countries. A live televised debate requires no cutting-edge technology and is cost-effective, but most importantly, it gives voters a chance to assess the candidates.
BERSIH challenges the Barisan Nasional Government to support the idea of televised debates. After having won 12 general elections since 1955, it is shameful that the BN leadership still dreads the thought of participating in live debates on TV.
The EC must push for live debates if it wants to see higher turnout rates during elections. It is highly likely that televised political debates will do more to raise political awareness and interest among citizens than any of the current EC-initiated advertisements or campaign.