Watchdog: Why sudden surge in voter turnout?

Hazlan Zakaria (Malaysiakini)
Sibu Election Watch (SEW), an independent election monitor during the Sibu by-election, has cried foul over Election Commission’s inability to provide an accurate account of the voter turnout by the end of the polling period.
Coupled with the two-hour delay in the announcement of the official results, SEW warns that the EC putting a dent to its own credibility and that of the by-election.
“It can create a negative impression, (giving rise to the possibility) that there were efforts to tamper with the results,” read the report.
“NONEThe election administrator was either incompetent, manipulative or partisan,” added SEW in the report.
On 6.40pm Sunday, the EC announced that the voter turnout stood at 59 percent, with EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (right) publicly expressing disappointment over the low numbers.
By around 9pm, Abdul Aziz replied in a text message to Malaysiakini stating that the turnout “may actually be more than 60 percent”.
But when returning officer Wong See Meng announced the official results at 11pm, the turnout rate had already ballooned to 70 percent.
SEW, in its report, argued that the sudden surge in voter turnout figures without any explanation thus far, must be viewed seriously.
“They should be more accurate in reporting such important figures. I hope that the EC would explain this (last-minute) increase,” said Wong Meng Chou, SEW’s head of mission.
The report was also highly critical of the BN campaign which SEW accuses of perpetuating vote-buying an abuse of government machinery.
NONE“BN brought vote-buying and abuses of government resources to unprecedented heights, and in so doing hugely distorted the will of the people as reflected in the outcome from the ballot box,” read the report.
The report also mentioned that there were almost 20 federal cabinet ministers, led by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, and other government officials who abused government agencies and departments for campaigning.
“There was no law enforcement on these activities, which clearly violate the Election Offences Act 1954 and the Anti-Corruption Act 1997.
“Neither the EC nor the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) bothered to take action or to reprimand them,” read the report.
NONESEW also took Pakatan Rakyat to task for failing to abide to the no-campaign rule on polling day, which the group argued was against established international practices.
“Surprisingly they were very arrogant. Some of the opposition leaders refused to stop and argued with our members who reminded them about the no-campaigning rule.
“The BN leaders were more cooperative, they stopped campaigning when reminded of the ban,” said Wong.
Accreditation sought
Among others, the report also highlighted the lack of wheelchairs for disabled voters in the rural areas.
NONEHowever, SEW notes that the overall voting and counting process was smooth.
“We hope that the EC will look at our recommendations and work to improve on how elections are run,” said Wong.
He hopes that the EC will give its accreditation to election watchdogs and civil society groups like SEW in order to enhance the legitimacy of the electoral process.
SEW is an ad hoc group of volunteers formed to observe the by-election.
A total of 20 observers were deployed in various locations throughout the constituency but could only observe the process from outside the polling station because they were not granted accreditation by the EC.