Azreen Madzlan | Mar 17, 08
The Coalition for Free and Clean Elections (Bersih) has claimed that opposition parties could have won the 12th general election had it been conducted in clean, fair and transparent manner.
PKR, DAP and PAS took 82 parliamentary seats between them – the biggest number in electoral history – and denied the Barisan Nasional (BN) a two-thirds majority in the 222-seat House.
“We would have had an outright win if this were a free and fair election,” said Bersih’s R Sivarasa, who was elected to parliament.
“To win another 30 seats (to form a majority in parliament) all we needed was just another 56,000 votes,” he said.
At a press conference today, Bersih – a coalition of NGOs and opposition parties – reiterated a string of previously-reported claims. These covered ‘fraud, misconduct and irregularities’ during the 13-day election period up to March 8.
Among the allegations were that voters living in one area had been registered in other areas without their knowledge; possible manipulation of postal votes; existence of numerous voters at a single address; and the ‘luring’ of voters to Kelantan by BN leaders.
The New Sunday Times reported yesterday that 72,058 ballot papers were unreturned in the March 8 general election. Of this number, 41,564 were parliamentary ballot papers and 30,494 were state ballot papers.
Election Commission secretary, Kamaruzzaman Mohd Noor was quoted saying that all of the unreturned ballot papers were postal ballot papers.
Based on this, Bersih is arguing that most of these could have been in favour of opposition parties or, at very least, spoilt votes.
Royal commission idea
Pandamaran MP, Ronnie Liu said the missing postal votes are unacceptable and that Bersih was calling for a thorough investigation.
“We suspect that the missing votes are for opposition parties or spoil votes. They must have thrown it away because they don’t want to get embarrassed.” he said.
Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng (right), who chaired the press conference, said the EC has another five years to change election laws.
“We challenge the EC to change the laws – no more excuses,” he said.
On March 4, the EC abruptly called off its plan to use indelible ink, citing public order and security reasons, but mainly because the Election (Conduct of Election) Regulation 1981 had not been amended to allow for the use of indelible ink.
Bersih also dismissed claims by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other BN leaders that the opposition’s electoral gains proved that the election process was clean.
“Just because the opposition won big does not mean the election was free and fair,” said Sivarasa. “We are calling for a royal commission to investigate the electoral process.”
Yellow-clad members of the group and supporters had held a huge street protest last November, to back the submission of a memorandum to the King, asking for his intervention to delay the general election until reforms could be implemented.
So, will their famous ‘yellow wave’ be back on the streets again?
Responding, Bersih committee member Anuar Tahir said Bersih is currently focused on getting public support for its petition to set up a royal commission on electoral reform to investigate allegations of election fraud and misconduct.
It is also compiling all complaints and reports on electoral fraud for publication soon. In this respect, it called on the public to send in any evidence in hand.
Syed Azman, the Batu Buruk assemblyperson, also took the print and broadcast media to task over their election coverage, claiming that it had done much harm to the opposition parties.
“It is now time for news people to check their practice (of journalism) and to be more democratic,” he said.
He said Bersih could take to the streets again, this time to demand fairer media coverage for opposition parties.
Dzulkifli said the EC had promised Bersih at two meetings that opposition parties will get “equal space in the media” but that this had not materialised.
Pusat Komas director Jerald Joseph pointed out that the media should serve their audience and not the government of the day.
“If the people can send the message that they want change in the government, the same people can send a similar message to the media,” he added.
Bersih: Opposition could have won gov't