With the general election looming, there is no better time to demand for substantive reforms to our electoral system as how we managed to get a first-ever Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform in 2012 prior to the highly anticipated thirteenth general election (GE13).
The establishment of the committee itself was a milestone for it indicated that authorities had heard the people’s voice, as expressed through the three mammoth rallies that preceded it and the constant public callouts through BERSIH 2.0.
Yet only two recommendations out of the 22 produced by the committee was implemented in the general election that came soon after – allowing all overseas Malaysians to vote by postal ballot, and advance voting for media personnel. Even then, the former was poorly carried out, with only 6,000 out of more than one million Malaysians living overseas voting, on top of problems stemming from a lack of information, trained personnel and procedural security.
Five years on, ahead of another general election, it is time to take stock of what is urgently needed to restore public confidence in the elections so that there can be no question of the legitimacy of the winner with the higher stakes at play in view of the vastly changed political dynamics. The elections must be fairly won and seen to be thus so that the will of an informed citizenry is truly reflected as it should be in a democracy.
Towards this goal, BERSIH 2.0 today launches our electoral reform campaign, Make Your Vote Count! (#MYVoteCounts)
The campaign begins with an official handover of our memorandum of reforms to the Election Commission (EC) at its offices around the country, in Putrajaya, Kota Kinabalu, Alor Star, Kota Bharu, George Town, and Ipoh simultaneously, and JB on later dates.
The memorandum lists our demands of the EC that can be carried out in 10 months. The measures are designed to increase transparency, accountability and efficiency in all electoral processes and of the authorities, as well as restore checks and balances among all stakeholders, from the EC to political parties and voters.
The reforms are:
- Appointing and restructuring an independent EC that reports directly to Parliament;
- Removing corruption and money politics from elections;
- Implementing automatic voter registration;
- A full audit of the electoral roll and implementation of safeguards to maintain its integrity;
- Reforming the eligibility and processes for absentee voting, especially for Sabahans, Sarawakians and overseas Malaysian voters;
- Allowing domestic and international election observers to operate freely during elections;
- Creating fair election boundaries;
- Establishing an enabling environment for free and fair media during elections; and
- Implementing a 21-day campaign period.
With more than a year to go until the final date that the general election must be called as per the constitution, the EC can and should act on our demands immediately if it is serious about its mission of “upholding the parliamentary democratic system and ensuring the right of citizens to choose their representatives by managing, monitoring and conducting elections freely and fairly”.
We offer our voluntary services to work with the EC on these measures to ensure a free and fair GE14, on the condition that no election is held until these reforms are implemented.
BERSIH 2.0 also takes this opportunity to remind the EC of a far-reaching but rather downplayed recommendation by the parliamentary select committee five years ago – that is, to study alternative electoral systems towards eventually replacing the present first-past-the-post system. We believe Malaysia needs to introduce some proportional representation elements, such as party list, to the electoral system, as a more effective and inclusive method that addresses the very foundation of what a fair election means. Hence, even as we focus on short-term reforms for GE14, it is important we that prioritise this long-term reform now by holding consultations to develop a plan for it.
The EC and federal government must restore the faith of the public in our most basic democratic right, and must strive to equal or better the record *85 per cent voter turnout in the previous general election.
They can start by agreeing to our demands.
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee
The full memorandum can be found here: bersih.org/ge14-electoral-reforms-memo