Stop accusing the Election Commission of bias

The Star
Comment by V.K. Chin

Friday, 16 November 2007
IT is time non-governmental organisations, political parties of all sizes and ideologies, and others stop accusing the Election Commission of bias in carrying out its work.
The commission has often been the target of the opposition, especially during a general or by-election.

The commission has been blamed for lots of things, from bias to not updating the electoral roll. However, its officials are used to such allegations, many of which are without any basis.
In fact, the commission should be lauded for doing a good job in carrying out its duties. It has been holding many general and by-elections and has always adhered strictly to the law.
At the same time, the commission can be described as one of the fairest, and most impartial, in performing its statutory duties. If elections were rigged, then opposition candidates would have no chance whatsoever in such contests.
But the fact is quite different from fiction. Opposition candidates were not only able to win many parliamentary and state seats but their parties were able to win control of state governments, too.
A good example is PAS being in control of the Kelantan state government. It managed to hold on to power despite the best efforts of its rival, Barisan Nasional.
If the commission had been unfair, PAS would have lost Kelantan a long time ago. In 1999, it even captured the Terengganu state government from the ruling coalition.
Unfortunately, opposition parties like to blame the commission to cover up their own shortcomings and inability to compete with the powerful election machinery and resources of the Barisan.
It is therefore an insult to the commission and its hardworking officials to be accused of being biased in favour of the ruling party. They should in fact be praised for their independence and fair play.
Whatever mistakes the commission has made have mostly to do with updating of the electoral roll.
For example, political parties like to highlight the fact that some dead voters’ names are still on the electoral list. Actually, it is up to the public to inform the commission of such deaths so that the names can be removed from the rolls.
It is also up to voters who have moved out of the constituencies to inform the commission, which will then be able to update the list.
Another obstacle faced by the commission is the reluctance of eligible voters to register themselves so they can exercise their democratic right to participate in elections.
Its appeal to this group has obviously fallen on deaf ears. It can only ask them to do so, and it is up to political parties to help out in this task.
The result is that millions of those qualified to become voters are deprived of this right, and surely the commission cannot be blamed for this unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Neither can the commission force voters to go to the polling booth during a general or by-election. It has tried its best to wake up these people, but the results are disappointing.
It is only due to the good work of the commission and the Barisan Nasional that Malaysian elections have been conducted in a democratic and just manner since Merdeka, and this is likely to remain so for a long time to come.
If opposition parties have no intention of praising the commission’s good work, they should keep quiet and let the agency discharge its duties without outside interference.