New EC Chief must commit to Electoral Reform

12 November 2008
New EC Chief must commit to Electoral Reform
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) expresses disappointment that there was no consultation
with the Opposition and electoral advocacy groups prior to the appointment of Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, Home Ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof as the new Chairman of the Election Commission (EC).
Appointed by the Yang diPertuan Agong upon recommendation by the Prime Minister, under Clause (1) Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, effective 31 December 2008, Abdul Aziz Yusof will be replacing current EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman whose term will end when he turns 66 on 30 December 2008.
That stakeholders only learned about this appointment from media reports is an affront to democracy, more so as this announcement came on the heels of the first anniversary of BERSIH’s 50,000-strong rally demanding electoral reform and the bloody crackdown of its commemoration on Sunday, 9 November 2008.
Governments in most democracies will consult the Opposition in making such appointment as the perceived
impartiality and bipartisan acceptance of the candidate are needed in the management of elections. The need for such consultation has grown only stronger than ever with the increasing public outcry for electoral reform and Opposition winning more than one-third representation in Parliament. In most other Westminster-style democracies, the Chairman and Commissioners of the Election Commission are often made up of former judges with impeccable track records of competency and integrity.
The appointment of a civil servant to be the custodian of Malaysian elections is a letdown after eight disastrous years under Tan Sri Abdul Rashid, whose litany of failures and scandals include the poor management of the 2004 General Election, and the last-minute cancellation of the use of indelible ink in the 2008 General Election. It is highly likely that a former civil servant would be ‘forced’ to toe the line than a person who is ‘outside’ the system.
Tan Sri Abdul Aziz must commit himself to cleaning up the non-transparent and dishonest electoral process
in Malaysia. We cannot afford to have a Government whose legitimacy is questionable. Such a Government
is likely to deter foreign direct investment and exacerbate the brain drain problem, more so at a time of global economic depression.
BERSIH calls on him to declare his support for these five basic demands of the Malaysian public:

  • A comprehensive overhaul of the electoral roll
  • The abolition of postal voting for the armed forces and their spouses
  • The use of indelible ink
  • Fair access to the media
  • Campaign period of at least 21 days

We also urge Tan Sri Abdul Aziz to look into two other important issues, namely the possibility of introducing automatic voter registration and the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18.
As the next General Elections could take place anytime between 2009 and 2013, BERSIH urges Tan Sri Abdul
Aziz not to allow a review of constituency boundaries for Penincula Malaysia in 2010 without public consultation.
With a questionable redelineation exercise that guarantees BN’s victory with more gerrymandering and the
mal-apportionment of constituencies, he would go down in history as the man who manufactured an illegitimate government and pave the way for multiple political, economical and social crises.
Instead, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz should leave his mark by proposing to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the establishment of a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (RCER) to overhaul and reform the entire electoral system and process.