Bersih wants improvements in postal voting

S Pathmawathy | Aug 21, 08 (Malaysiakini)
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) today suggested that all military and police officials be listed as ordinary voters and only those on duty on polling day be allowed to vote via post.
The suggestion from Bersih referred to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Dapertment Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz’s answer to Kelana Jaya MP Loh Gwo-Burne’s question during the Aug 18 parliamentary session regarding flaws in the postal voting system.
“Nazri’s answer to Loh’s question is misleading and insulting the intelligence of the Malaysian public,” said Bersih steering committee member R Sivarasa in the Parliament lobby today.
“It is dishonest to suggest that Bersih wants to completely abolish postal voting and disenfranchise the police, the military and citizens abroad. We never said that,” said Sivarasa, who is also the Subang MP.
Instead, the watchdog proposed that postal voters be registered as ordinary voters and that polling centres be set up in army camps that housed a large number of soldiers.
“The rest could either be registered to vote at poling centres nearest to their work places or, if they prefer, at their home addresses.
Setiawangsa a good example
“In other words, the separate list of postal votes should consist of only Malaysians abroad, which Bersih believes should include all eligible citizens and not be limited to civil servants and university students,” said Sivarasa.
“In short, Bersih’s stand is to only abolish the postal vote system which is being practiced now,” he added.
Sivarasa denied that the move was to push for a change in the by-election process in Permatang Pauh, saying the number of registered postal voters in the district was small.
According to Bersih, postal voters amounted to 244,881 or 2.3 per cent of the total registered voters in the country. In certain areas, there is a concentration of more than one thousand postal voters.
“A good example is the seat of Setiawangsa in Kuala Lumpur where without taking into account the postal votes, the PKR candidate would have won the seat by about 1,600 votes, making it a clean sweep of all seats in KL,” he said.
“(Voters) have become an easy victim to gerrymandering and mal-apportionment of constituencies,” said Sivarasa.
Postal vote is a misnomer
“In fact, using the phrase ‘postal vote’ is a complete misnomer, as what is actually happening is not even proper postal voting.
“Practically all soldiers and police personnel physically collect their ballot papers at their respective work places. If they are doing that, there is no reason for them not to vote like all other citizens, in a transparent manner observed by the Election Commission and the political parties,” said Sivarasa.
“Let me explain why I say postal vote in a misnomer. A real postal vote in other countries (is done when) you apply for the postal vote and the ballot is received by post and posted back. That is what we refer to as postal vote,” he explained.
“(But) here what is happening is, five or six days before elections, postal voters cast their ballots, so we are not actually observing postal voting. Therefore, there is no reason the process cannot be changed for the police, military or their spouses,” said Sivarasa.
He also stressed that police officers and military officials are classified as ‘second class’ voters as they are separately listed postal voters.
“As suggested by numerous allegations of ballot stuffing, proxy voting, violation of secrecy and intimidation, they (police and military voters) are likely to be deprived of the right to vote freely and secretly,” said Sivarasa.