Bersih: Change postal voting system, not abolish it

By Shannon Teoh (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) clarified today that it sought changes to the postal voting system, not a complete abolition.

At a press conference in the Parliament lobby today, pro-tem committee members of the movement, led by Pakatan Rakyat politicians R. Sivarasa, Teresa Kok and Salahuddin Ayub, described Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s reply to PKR’s Kelana Jaya MP Loh Gwo-Burne’s question on postal votes on Monday as “dishonest, misleading and insulting to the intelligence of the Malaysian public”.
Nazri had said that if postal votes were abolished, it would infringe on the right of government servants and students overseas to vote, and the absence of soldiers or police on duty on that day would affect national security.
Sivarasa said Bersih’s proposal was for military and police personnel to be listed as ordinary voters and only those on duty on polling day need vote via postal ballots.
“Soldiers who are stationed in large numbers at particular camps ought to vote like any other voters with a polling centre set up there,” he said, adding that a separate list of postal voters should consist of all eligible voters abroad and not just civil servants and students.
He added that “the phrase postal vote is a complete misnomer as all soldiers and police have their ballots physically collected at their workplaces. If so, there is no reason not to vote like other citizens, in a transparent manner observed by the Election Commission and polling agents from political parties.”
Sivarasa reiterated his fellow PKR vice-president Azmin Ali’s assertion on Tuesday that EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahmad had told opposition leaders at a meeting last year that he was under pressure from the Umno leadership and the Defence Ministry to maintain the current system of postal voting despite his own personal misgivings.
Kok highlighted that “in Lumut there are thousands of votes which go missing. What is the EC doing about this?”
According to the press statement released by Bersih, between 2,763 and 5,486 ballots were not returned in the parliamentary constituency in five consecutive elections since 1990 and it further claimed that Abdul Rashid admitted that this was mainly due to postal voting.
Nazri had on Monday told the Dewan Rakyat that postal voters had up to 5pm on polling day to submit their votes and the fact that many did not do so was outside the control of the EC.
Sivarasa also said the number of postal voters was 244,881 or 2.3% of the electoral roll and suggested that they had been used to swing most of the 30 parliamentary seats won by Barisan Nasional in the March 8 general election by margins of fewer than 2,000 votes.
He however said that the issue was not brought up specifically with regards to the ongoing Permatang Pauh by-election campaign as the number of postal voters in the constituency was fewer than 500.