13-day campaign period adequate, says EC chairman

By BERNAMA14 February, 2008
The 13-day campaign period for the general election is adequate for all the political parties contesting in the polls, Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said today.
He said the commission took into account internal security and public order when deciding on the campaign period.
He said there are 30 registered political parties in the country.
“If we were to extend the campaign period, there are many sensitive issues in the country which may be manipulated by the parties (to whip up support),” he told a press conference called to announce the nomination and polling dates for the general election.
Polling is on March 8 and nomination on Feb 24, providing 13 days for political parties to campaign, an additional five days compared to only eight days in the 2004 general election, .
A total of 10,922,139 electorate, including 221,085 postal voters, are eligible to exercise their electoral rights to elect their representatives for the 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats except for the 71 state seats in Sarawak.
The Sarawak state election was held on May 20, 2006. The state assembly’s five-year mandate will only lapse in 2011.
Abdul Rashid said about 600,000 additional voters are eligible to vote in this election from the 10.3 million in the last election.
He said the commission had been officially informed by Istana Negara that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, gave royal assent to the dissolution of Parliament yesterday.
The commission had also received the notices of dissolution of the state assemblies except for the Sarawak state assembly, he said.
Following the dissolutions, the commission met today to decide on the nomination and polling dates for the general election which must be held within 60 days from the date of dissolution of the Parliament as stipulated under Article 55(4) of the Federal Constitution.
Abdul Rashid said the commission will tomorrow issue the election writ to the returning officers in all the 222 parliamentary constituencies.
The notice for the election will be issued on Saturday, he said.
Abdul Rashid hoped that more than 75 per cent of the electorate would exercise their electoral rights in this election to elect the government and their elected representatives as the polling date falls on a Saturday, a weekend holiday for civil servants and the start of the first-term school holidays.
Abdul Rashid said he hoped to conduct the election fairly and openly, taking into account the security factor.
“We want to continue to maintain the clean, fair and peaceful election record of this country as in the past 11 general elections,” he said.
He said the commission will spend RM200 million for the election, deploying 149,000 staff and 50,000 casual staff including helicopter pilots and boat navigators.
Transparent and durable plastic ballot boxes, indelible ink and ballot papers without serial numbers would be used in this election, he said.
Abdul Rashid said voting secrecy was guaranteed without the voter serial numbers on ballot papers as was implemented in the Sarawak state election in 2006.
“Nobody will know whom you have voted for,” he said.
He said no election observers from foreign countries have been invited to monitor the election process as the commission had no powers to issue accreditation to them.
On allegations of phantom voters, Abdul Rashid said: “It’s impossible that names of people not listed in the electoral roll can vote. If there are claims, show me the proof and we will investigate. So far, there are no phantom voters.”
Abdul Rashid said the commission would soon issue guidelines on the do’s and don’ts for the election campaign.
He urged political parties, candidates and individuals involved in the election to observe the election rules and campaign ethics and new procedures to be announced from time to time.