The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) denounces the statement of former deputy chairman of Election Commission(EC) Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar who urged the current EC Chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun and other Commissioners to resign because there had been a change in the government. His proposal for the EC to resign along with the Prime Minister was not only an attack on the EC’s integrity, but also an attack on the Federal Constitution and our democracy.
For the record, EC is a constitutional body with the Chairperson and other Commissioners appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) in accordance with Article 114(1) of the Federal Constitution. The EC members only cease to hold office if they attain 66 years old or have been fired by the YDPA.
Article 114(3) states clearly that Commissioner “shall not be removed from office except on the grounds and in the like manner as a judge of the Federal court”, which necessitates a tribunal to prove there have been misconducts and offences that affect the EC’s objectives. This also means the standing and independence conferred to the EC as a democratic institution is at par with the Federal Court.
Datuk Wan Ahmad’s call for Datuk Azhar Harun and other Commissioners to resign is illogical as if our Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun binti Tuan Mat is similarly urged to resign, just because Tun Dr Mahathir who proposed all their names for the appointment by the YDPA has resigned.
Wan Ahmad’s call for the EC’s resignation revealed not only his shallow knowledge of democracy and the Federal Constitution but also his self-perception as a political appointee when he was the EC’s Secretary (1998-2004) and then its Deputy Chair (2004-2013). No wonder the EC during the years of 1998-2013 had failed to convince the people that they discharged their duty independently and with integrity.
To date, we have not seen any action or misconduct committed by the current EC that violates our Federal Constitution, laws or the principles of free and fair elections. Instead, the EC has introduced many reforms to the conduct of elections and commendably responded to election-related issues, amongst others:
- Requiring candidates to pledge not to violate the Election Offenses Act, as in the Cameron Highlands by-election.
- Distributing Voters Cards to voters with information such as polling centers, polling dates and polling streams to encourage voter turnout such as in the Rantau, Semenyih and Sandakan by-elections.
- Verifying the existence of registered voters aged 90 or above to purge the deceased ones from electoral rolls.
- Making live broadcast of the vote counting process at counting centers in all by-elections on the EC’s official Facebook page.
- Providing a mini camera at the polling clerk’s desk to monitor the voting process and counting of votes on each stream during the Kimanis By-Election. This reform ensures transparency in the conduct of election as the recordings can serve as evidences in the event of any disputes arising.
- Warning the government not to use government machinery and resources to campaign during the Cameron Highlands by-election.
- Accrediting civil society organizations such as Bersih 2.0, Engage, Tindak Malaysia and other NGO’s to deploy election observers during the by-elections.
- Lodging police report for the election offences committed in by-elections.
These are only part of the commendable reforms introduced by the EC under the leadership of Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun. Overall, the EC today is better, more transparent and open than the EC during the Barisan Nasional era.
Bersih 2.0 calls upon all Malaysians who want free and fair elections to rally behind the EC that now comes under attacks by unscrupulous parties.
Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee
(Image credit: Berita Harian)