Election fever gets hotter

The Star: Sunday, January 6, 2008

PETALING JAYA: The general election fever just got hotter – leave for all police officers and personnel has been frozen indefinitely.

A circular was issued to that effect last month, and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan told The Star that the main reason for the freeze was to conduct dry runs for the next general election.
“We have several reasons for doing so; the main reason being that we need to have dry runs. There are many things that we need to do when the elections are called. We must be prepared.”
Musa said his officers had been briefed about what needed to be done and he expressed hope they would pass the message down to the men on the ground.
Sources said that leave would only be approved for those facing emergencies, adding that Musa wanted to ensure that fewer than 10% of the 95,000-strong force were away at any one time.
The Election Commission is also getting down to serious work. Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman reiterated that the elections are near, adding that he was “not joking” about the matter when he first spoke of it.
“In fact, I’m dead serious about it,” he said in an exclusive interview.
Abdul Rashid said he was not trying to show that he had the “power” recently when he said the elections would be held soon.
“I purposely said that to remind everyone – voters and political parties alike – to be ready as the elections will be held soon.
“I just want to be fair to all. Democracy works when participation by political parties is vibrant on the ground. We would like very much to encourage as many parties to participate in the elections as possible, hence the ‘warning’ so that everybody can be prepared,” he said.
Pressed for a more specific date, Abdul Rashid, who would be taking charge of the running of his seventh election, said:
“When I say the election is around the corner, you better believe me because it is not a joke. It is definitely not a joke. You don’t joke about these things.”
Abdul Rashid said the EC had been told that it was time to prepare for the elections, adding that it had already been making the necessary preparations since last year, when he issued notices to secretariats nationwide to “get cracking”.
The EC chairman said Malaysians should consider themselves blessed for having good electoral practices, despite claims by some parties to the contrary.
“Some countries can’t even form a government, let alone a good government. Here, due to good electoral practices, we have a legitimate government, chosen by the people.
“There have been peaceful elections; we are blessed with that,” he said.
On his being the target of Bersih, Abdul Rashid said the group did not understand election laws and had demanded that certain changes be made, when the commission had no power to do so.
“We work within the framework of the law, nothing more, nothing less. The Bersih group made several demands and I told them that the things they demanded were beyond us,” he said.
Abdul Rashid hoped that the next general election, which would be his last as EC chairman, would be smooth, controversy-free and successful.