EC chief: No other regime capable of running the country

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Dec 8, 07

Election Commission (EC) chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman let slip today his views on which ‘regime’ he regards as being capable of running the country, and said those who disagree with him do not realise the ‘critical’ situation the country is in.

“A lot of people are anxious to determine the type of regime that is going to handle Malaysia in the coming years. They are always talking about regimes. I never talk about regimes. There is only one regime in this country that is capable of running (the country),” he said.
“People get angry with me whenever I say this (but) people don’t seem to understand the critical scenario in the country. What is it that can (take) over from the present one given the political scenario we are in?” he asked.
Abdul Rashid said this in his keynote address to a seminar on Malaysian political development organised by the political science department of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in Kuala Lumpur today.
Also present at the opening of the seminar was former agriculture minister and current IIUM president Sanusi Junid, whom Abdul Rashid described as ‘a good friend’ with whom he is on ‘the same wave length’ in terms of what the country needs.
Malaysia would be ‘in trouble’ if he as the EC chairperson were in disagreement with politicians such as Sanusi as to what the country needs and doesn’t need, he said.
“I am an administrator, he is a politician. But there are a lot of times (when) we speak the same ‘language’. We go on the same wavelength as far as the country is concerned, (and on) what the country needs does not need. That one, we have to agree (on),” said Abdul Rashid.
“If we don’t agree, then we are in trouble, because I run the elections,” he added.
A lie, yet some truth in it
Abdul Rashid also alluded to the power he has in determining who holds the reins of power.
“People say that those who hold that power – to run elections – can always determine who is going to be put into power. Of course, that’s a lie, they’re bluffing. But there is also some truth in it.
“The person who holds that power may be able to do a lot of things that help the country. Whatever we do in the Election Commission, the country’s interests are always above everything,” he said.
Referring to a recent international survey whose findings suggested the majority of Malaysians feel elections are free and fair and that they are well-represented by the government, Abdul Rashid said such findings lend more credence to the independence of the EC than the scepticism of ‘disgruntled politicians’.
“(The independence of the EC) should be seen, not by some disgruntled politicians, but through the eyes of the whole rakyat. If the rakyat says, ‘I think Election Commission is independent’, that is enough,” said Abdul Rashid.
The poll by TNS and Gallup International was reported yesterday to have found that 74 percent of 1,250 Malaysians interviewed feel that elections in the country are free and fair, while 69 percent feel that they are well-represented by the government.
“There are people who (come to me and) tell me, ‘Don’t worry. Carry on. You’re quite independent’. That is good enough,” said Abdul Rashid.
The EC chairperson also criticised the judgment of Justice Muhammad Kamil Awang, who in a ruling on the Likas election declared the 1998 Sabah state electoral role as unlawful because ‘phantom’ voters had cast their votes.
Abdul Rashid, who was EC secretary in 2001, had allegedly ignored demands for a public inquiry into the Likas election results, despite its nullification by Muhammad Kamil.
“Looking at all legal angles, that decision was not a proper decision or a good one. That was very bad decision as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
My option – I can choose to go or stay
Although the justice’s ruling did not change the outcome of Likas, the EC is wary of calls for a by-election because of the potential ‘injustice’ committed to those who had voted, said Abdul Rashid.
“I’m very concerned about election petitions because if we decide to have a by-election or to declare an election null and void, it means we are either doing justice to the person who wants the election, or we do an injustice to people who took pains to come out and vote,” he said.
“If one or two votes are no good, it will not be used to nullify the elections. One or two votes cannot defeat 30,000 votes or 40,000 votes. That is fair,” Abdul Rashid added.
Abdul Rashid declined to offer additional comments when met after his remarks.
When asked for his response to objections against a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, will extend the EC chairperson’s tenure by a year to age 66, Abdul Rashid claimed the bill would not impact on his term of service.
“It’s not extending mine (tenure). My retirement will come at the end of this December (this month). That extension is for other members of the panel,” he said.
“It’s my option – I can choose to remain or I can choose to go,” Abdul Rashid added.
He also said he has not yet decided whether he will continue serving as the EC chairperson after he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65 this Dec 31.
Polls watchdog coalition Bersih believes that the government is attempting to bulldoze through an amendment to the election laws so that Abdul Rashid – whom they allege to be “a government stooge” – can continue to “manoeuver the EC and make decisions in favour of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition”.
Berish will submit a petition on Tuesday to Parliament Speaker Ramli Ngah Talib expressing its concerns on the matter