MEDIA STATEMENT (7 MARCH 2018): Parties must promise RCIs on electoral system and local elections in their manifestos

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) calls upon all political parties to commit to appointing Royal Commissions of Inquiry (RCIs) on Malaysia’s electoral system and local elections if they win power.
BERSIH 2.0 stresses that regardless which parties or coalitions win, Malaysian politics will continue to be plagued by communalism and corruption, if the way in which our federal, state and local governments are put in place is not fundamentally reformed.
Malaysians need to deliberate and debate on concrete alternatives to ensure that the new systems have the widest possible acceptability and legitimacy. Royal Commissions of Inquiry (RCIs) are the best means to ensure an inclusive national conversation before any changes are made.
If a national consensus is reached, the proposed changes can be introduced before the 15th General Election (GE15). Otherwise, the proposals can be decided in GE15 as voters can vote for parties which support or oppose the changes.
Since establishing RCIs is not the same as imposing change abruptly, refusal to do so means a party is totally against reforms to our electoral system and local governments. Voters must then use the pre-election period and indeed the ballot box to pressure parties into committing to these two RCIs.
BERSIH 2.0 proposes the scope of the two proposed RCIs as follows, and calls upon all pro-democracy groups and individual citizens to deepen the discussion.
The Elections RCI should study the functioning of elections and parties, including:
• Electoral system, to promote vote-seat proportionality and political inclusion of all communities and segments in Malaysia
• Clean electoral rolls, automatic voter registration and absentee voting
• Funding of party operations and election campaigns
• Campaign and media freedom during and beyond elections
• Caretaker government and administrative neutrality
• Reform of the Election Commission
The EC’s blatantly unconstitutional acts, from the extremely partisan delineation review now being rushed to be tabled in the parliament, to the arbitrary extension of postal and advanced voting facilities, to the inclusion of military voters in under-construction barracks, indicate that the entire system is entirely broken. The EC, helmed by seven ex-senior civil servants without any sense of integrity or shame, needs to be recognised as both a national shame and threat.
The Local Government RCI should study the consolidation and democratisation of our local governments, 50 years after the Athi-Nahappan Commission. Its scope must include:
• A review of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution to propose a reasonable division of power between federal, state and local governments, to ensure viability and relevance of state governments after the introduction of local elections;
• Consolidation of local authorities and district offices into one body with commensurate administrative, legislative and financial powers;
• Electoral system and suffrage for local elections to ensure vote-seat proportionality and political inclusion of all communities and segments in Malaysia.
The 2008 political tsunami is 10 years old tomorrow, March 8, 2018. The fact that there has been so little discussion on electoral system changes and local elections in the past 10 years shows our collective failure. This failure must not be allowed to persist for another decade.
Issued by:
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee
Mr. Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari (Acting Chair)
Mr Rama Ramanathan as National Steering Committee Member
Ms Ng Geok Chee as National Steering Committee Member
Ms Farhana Halim as National Steering Committee Member
Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon as Regional Steering Committee Member (Northern)
Ms Ong Lai Mun Regional Steering Committee Member (Southern)
Mr Jay Jay Denis Regional Steering Committee Member (Central)
Ms Beverly Joemen Regional Steering Committee Member (Sabah)
Ms Ann Teo Regional Steering Committee Member (Sarawak)
Mr Safwan Anang Regional Steering Committee Member (East Coast)