Press Release: 17 March 2008
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) wishes to point out that the opposition parties might have won the elections outright if it was in fact clean, free, fair and transparent.
BERSIH stresses that the Opposition’s impressive gains were the result of a number of factors, and in spite of the numerous incidences of fraudulent practices, irregularities and misconduct — not because of the absence of dirty tactics.
The BN won many seats with wafer-thin margins, very likely aided by fraudulent means. The margin was smaller than 20% of the total valid votes in 57 seats, and smaller than 10% in 25 of them. In order to wrest BN’s 30 weakest seats from the coalition to form the federal government, the opposition parties in fact needed only 56,822 more votes.
BERSIH dismisses the claims by the PM Abdullah Badawi and other BN leaders that the opposition’s electoral gains proved that the elections are clean, rendering BERSIH’s allegation of fraud baseless. Such a claim is as ridiculous as the assertion that cancer is not a killer because some patients survive the disease.
BERSIH appeals to DYMM Yang DiPertuan Agong to appoint a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER) both to study the entire electoral process and system, and to investigate all allegations of fraud and misconducts in the 12th General Election. In addition, BERSIH will be urging the five Opposition-held state governments to highlight the matter to the Conference of Malay Rulers.
BERSIH urges all concerned Malaysians to endorse the petition to the King (the online version is at http://www.petitiononline.com/RCER2008). Members of public are also urged to submit documentation of instances of fraud and misconducts they have encountered for submission to the RCER.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of fraud, misconducts and irregularities that occurred throughout the electoral process:
1 Contamination of Electoral Roll
1.1 Fraudulent Registrations
Many voters found themselves registered as voters without their knowledge. Often, they are registered to vote in polling stations too far away from where they currently reside, thus allowing for the possibility for impersonators to vote in their place.
In some cases too, names were registered at non-existent addresses.
1.2 Fraudulent Transfer of Registration
Many voters found themselves transferred out from their constituencies where they voted in previous elections, often to constituencies they have never set foot in.
1.3 Denial of Registration and Arbitrary Assignment of Voters
Some voters, including BERSIH activist Liau Kok Fah, were unable to get registered as voters despite numerous attempt to do so. In other cases, family members registered at the same addresses were arbitrarily assigned to different constituencies, suggesting that this could be a ploy or an alternative to constituency re-delineation, which can be done only once every eight years.
To add to voters’ frustrations, many in the last year tried to register at post offices but the computer systems were always out of order, off-line or the post office had simply run out of forms.
1.4 Multiple Registrations
Some names, especially postal voters, are found to be registered multiple times at different constituencies. For example, a computer programmer found that out of a small sample of 563 records from an incomplete database, as many as 278 names were registered twice in different constituencies.
1.5 Deceased Persons in Electoral Rolls
Despite the EC’s claim that most of the deceased have been removed from electoral roll, BERSIH still finds these names (and ICs) registered with the Election Commission.
1.6 Back-door reinsertion of dubious names
In Kuantan, PKR candidate Fuziah Salleh found that some names which had been removed earlier from the principal electoral roll were ‘reinserted’ as unlawful additions to the supplementary roll.
2 Indelible ink and multiple voting
Indelible ink prevents multiple voting as those who have voted will be ‘marked’. Given the widespread instances of phantom voters (or impersonators), the ink would ensure that the phantoms cannot be “recycled”, hence obstructing the big-scale deployment of these voters in certain marginal seats.
After agreeing to the idea for nearly a year since mid-2007, the Election Commission abruptly announced its cancellation three days before polling day, citing two very unconvincing reasons.
Firstly, a few individuals apparently smuggled some form of the ink into the country and tried to cause havoc by misleading others (by applying the ink on their fingers before polling day), in the hopes of preventing them from voting. No one has been charged so far.
Secondly, Article 119 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the voting right of every registered voter, that no one can stop him/her from voting even if his/her fingernail is marked with indelible ink (a sign of having voted).
The eleventh-hour cancellation by the Election Commission showed that it had no genuine intention to employ the measure. Despite the National Fatwa Council’s consent in August 2007, the EC has failed not only to identify the claimed constitutional obstacle, but also to table the amendment to the relevant by-law “Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981” for the Parliament’s approval before its dissolution in March 2008. Its failure to provide for the legal basis was but a convenient excuse for the cancellation of the plan.
3 Postal Voting
There were 221,085 listed postal voters in the General Election, constituting 2% of total voters. Of these, 61% were military personnel and spouses who voted at army barracks, 38% were police personnel and spouses who voted at police stations, only 1% were Malaysians studying or working for the civil service abroad.
3.1 Lack of secrecy and confidentiality
The postal voting system is designed so that both Envelope A (containing the ballot) and Envelope B (containing Envelope A and the Form B which details the identity of the voter with his/her signature) were numbered. Furthermore, Form B needs to be signed by a witness who is usually a superior officer for the military or police voter. This makes the choice of the voter completely traceable, resulting in a fear of retribution that deters voting against the ruling party.
3.2 Possible proxy voting and ballot stuffing
As the candidate’s election agents are not allowed to observe the entire voting process in military barracks and police personnel, the process is open to manipulation through proxy voting and ballot stuffing.
3.3 Alternative form of gerrymandering
Due to the lack of confidentiality and a possibility of vote-rigging, the ruling coalition enjoys “strong support” amongst postal voters, sometimes as high as 90%. The arbitrary assignment of postal voters to any constituency makes that an effective alternative to gerrymandering.
In Kuala Lumpur, the sole seat won by the BN out of a total of 11 had a slim majority of 8,134 votes (constituting 19% of valid votes) while postal voters constituted 26% of the total electorate. In other words, BN could have been wiped out in K.L. if it had not been ‘saved’ by postal votes.
3.4 Multiple voting
As stated in 1.4, the problem of multiple voting by postal voters is a serious and very real issue.
The Election Commission itself was ill-informed about postal voting procedures for overseas Malaysians. EC secretary Kamaruzaman misled overseas Malaysians by claiming they could apply to register as postal voters until 27 January, when in fact under the election by-laws, only postal voters whose applications were received in time for the last revision of the electoral roll could vote. The EC’s misleading advice simply demonstrates its incompetence and disrespect for due process.
4 Campaign Period
From the outset, BERSIH has been requesting for a campaign period of 21 days, half of what the British gave for the first national elections in 1955. The Election Commission however only granted 13 days. Albeit being the longest since 1986, it was less than two-thirds of BERSIH’s demand. A longer campaign period would have allowed the electorate, especially new voters, to gather as much information as possible in order to make an informed choice.
5 Media Access
Through concentrated media ownership, the Malaysian media was highly controlled. The print and electronic media did not only bombard the voters with election advertisements from the BN, but coverage of candidates and election news was seriously skewed.
To take the New Straits Times as example, a Malaysian Media Monitors report found that 77% of news items in the three days before polling day was either positive articles about BN, news relating to BN or negative news regarding the Opposition. Opposition parties and candidates were hardly offered the opportunity to reply to negative allegations.
Although the Election Offences Act 1954 explicitly criminalizes bribery, traveling subsidies as much as RM 200 per person were given openly by a self-proclaimed NGO to Kelantanese to return to their home state to vote. No investigation was carried out by the police or the Election Commission.
7 Campaign Finance
Although the Election Offences Act 1954 imposes expenditure caps of RM200,000 for a parliamentary candidate and of RM100,000 for a state candidate, such caps were completely ineffective as the parties were not taken in as accounting unit. It is an open secret that millions ringgit were pumped in by BN into every parliamentary constituency to oil its election machinery.
A survey by Transparency International Malaysia found that for newspaper advertisements alone, BN may have spent more than RM7 million for the twelve days before polling day. Such expenses are unlikely to appear at all in BN candidates’ expenditure reports.
8 Administrative Neutrality
The outgoing government should act only as a caretaker once the parliament is dissolved. However, right from the caretaker PM onwards, leaders of the incumbent coalition extensively misused their public offices for campaigning.
Development projects running into hundreds of billions of ringgit were announced or pledged during the campaign period. State-owned media ran political advertisement disguised as public information back-to-back between news and entertainment slots.
9 Election Commission
The Election Commission has failed to demonstrate professionalism and integrity in discharging its duties. Its bias towards BN candidates for example were too obvious on nomination day. In Kuala Kangsar, incumbent Minister Rafidah Abdul Aziz was allowed to contest despite her failure in signing the nomination form – a serious oversight which has caused several Opposition candidates to be disqualified in past elections.
Stamp duty for the nomination paperwork, a requirement announced just days before nomination and seen as a way to trap Opposition candidates were generously waived and disregarded when BN candidates failed to produce it.
Opposition parties may have won the General Election outright if it was truly clean and fair
Press Release: 17 March 2008