EC chief: Contentious postal votes to stay

Nov 19, 07     

Malaysians will go to the polls soon, the elections chief said today, but will not do away with the contentious postal vote for the military and police despite allegations of rigging.

“You (political parties) get ready. General election is coming. We are busy training our officers,” Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, election commission chairman, told reporters without elaborating.
“We are ready to manage the election. We want all parties to contest in the election,” he added.
Abdul Rashid said postal voting will continue in the next election despite a demand by the opposition to stop the practice as they claim it was being rigged.
“No, no, we cannot (do away with the postal votes). It is a constitutional matter. Postal votes will be there in the next election,” he said.
“There is no such thing as (vote) rigging. I am very sad people are saying such things without evidence. I will resign if you prove it in court,” he said.
But Abdul Rashid said the government has agreed to allow officials of political parties into army and police camps when they vote.
“Postal votes for military and police personnel will be maintained but from the next polls Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Baddawi has agreed to allow political parties to monitor the voting inside the camps,” he said.
There were 220,000 postal votes in the last election.
Abdul Rashid said at least 10.5 million voters will be eligible to vote in the next election.
“There will be one million new voters in the coming election,” he said.
Speculations of early polls
The previous general election was held on March 21, 2004 and the next must be held by May 2009.
Abdul Rashid said transparent voting boxes will replace the traditional black boxes and indelible ink will be introduced.
There is speculation Abdullah may call for early polls to prevent former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim from taking part.
Anwar was a celebrated deputy premier and heir-apparent to former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad until 1998 when he was jailed for six years for sodomy and corruption.
The sodomy conviction was overturned but the corruption conviction stands, barring him from standing for public office until April 2008.
Anwar is currently adviser to PKR, which is formally run by his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
On Nov 10, 40,000 protesters staged a rally in Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reform including a review of the electoral roll and curbs on postal voting, which some say is being abused.