EC mulls re-registering 11 mil voters to stop fraud

May 26, 08 – Malaysiakini
The Election Commission has proposed re-registering all 10.9 million voters in a mammoth exercise aimed at silencing allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.
EC chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the project would take about two years, in time for the next general elections unless a snap poll is triggered by current political turmoil.
“The new registration exercise will be held if the government accepts the proposal. We hope the proposal will be accepted,” he said according to The Star daily.
Abdul Rashid said the existing roll was a “thorn in his flesh,” after being condemned by the opposition and rights activists who say it is deeply flawed and riddled with phantom voters.
Election reform campaigners said ahead of March 8 general elections that almost 9,000 voters born more than 100 years ago – including two reported to be 128 years old – were enrolled to vote.
EC ready for possible snap polls
Opposition leaders said before the March polls that they would be the country’s “dirtiest ever” after the EC controversially abandoned a plan to mark voters’ fingers with indelible ink.
Nevertheless, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered the worst results in its half-century history, losing five states and a third of parliamentary seats to the opposition.
The outcome triggered calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as well as splits within his ruling party which commentators say could potentially force the premier to hold fresh elections.
Abdul Rashid said the EC was capable of handling snap polls if necessary.
“It is not for us to speculate, but we are prepared for anything. In the past two months of meeting with the (returning officers) I’ve already told them to be prepared as it may be called any time,” he said.
Compulsory registration needed
Meanwhile, commenting on the re-registration issue today, DAP election strategist and Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong called the government to put into place an automatic voter registration system based on the National Registration Department’s database.
This was because the re-registration of voters would not guarantee the end of the manipulation of the electoral roll, he said.
Liew also said such a re-registration exercise does not address the ‘crisis’ of one-third of the 15 million Malaysians above the 21-year old voting age who have chosen not to register as voters.
“A re-enrolment exercise must address this crisis and not aggravate it,” said Liew in a statement issued today.
Liew also said it would be better for Rashid to support the formation of a Royal Commission for Electoral Reform to look into overhauling the “archaic electoral system” rather than offering piecemeal suggestions.
In an immediate reaction to Liew’s suggestion, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said he did not agree for the compulsory registration of Malaysians into the electoral roll.
“I don’t agree. It’s up to them. It’s their choice – this is a democracy – if they want to vote or not. You cannot force them to vote,” he told reporters when met at Parliament lobby today.
Meanwhile, Rural and Regional Development Minister and Umno information chief Muhammad Muhd Taib welcomed Rashid’s suggestion of a re-registration of voters.
He also said, however, that the government should be allowed to decide on the issue.
“The government will study the rationale and reasons (behind the re-registration of voters)… It’s going to be a very big exercise!” he said further.