The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (Bersih 2.0) calls on all voters for N23 Chini By-Election to perform their duties as voters eventhough our country is in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic. We believe that the democratic system should proceed but at the same time preventive measures to curb this pandemic must be taken by all parties, especially the Election Commission (EC).
Bersih 2.0 wishes to propose several recommendations to the EC in conducting the by-election that is set for 4 July 2020.
1. Nomination Day
EC may extend the nomination period for five days where the candidates can submit their nomination form online or by hand during the five days period to avoid public gathering to adhere to the Movement Controlled Order (MCO) to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. If the candidates choose to submit it by hand, there must a limit of 4 people from each candidate. EC can then announce the list of accepted candidates by issuing a media statement without having the supporters present at the nomination centre.
Candidates could also make amendments if there are errors while filling in the nomination form by resubmitting the form within the five-day nomination period.
For the objection process, completed nomination forms must be published officially, with personal information concealed, to enable other candidates to object if issues such as bankruptcy, or the candidate’s address is outside the consituency since this election is a state level election, arise. The duration of the objection can be set for two days after the closing of the nomination and a written objection can be sent to the EC during this period.
2. Election Campaign
The government should give equal airtime to all candidates including oppositions to appear and campaign on mainstream media such as RTM, including a live debate among the candidates. This should be done even without the Covid-19 threat that we are faced with, nevertheless this measure should be taken now as conventional campaigns such as public talks should be stopped.
According to Article 115 (2) – Assistance to the Election Commission, the EC may “request the public authorities to provide such assistance in the discharge of its duties as maybe practicable”. It is important for the EC to ensure that all candidates can campaign on level playing field as the campaign through a public talks is no longer possible due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The EC may ask RTM and Bernama to broadcast the campaigns of all candidates equally so that each candidate’s message can be conveyed to the voters so that voters can make informed decisions.
b. Public or group talks
Any public or group talks during election should be prohibited at all to prevent people from gathering.
c. Canvassing and Leafleting
Canvassing for votes could be allowed with strict regulations by following social distancing, wearing face mask and not more than 4 persons.
3. Polling Day
a. Voters Card
We welcome the EC’s recommendations on the voting schedule for voters to be at the polling centre on the polling day, to avoid the concentration of voters’ turn out at any one time and this information will be included in the voters card that EC will send to all the voters before the polling day.
b. Increase Polling Centres and Polling Streams
To avoid congestion of voters in the polling centre, EC may open more polling centres and polling streams. EC can emulate how Indonesia open their polling centers, and the polling centres need not necessarily be in schools, it also could be opened in residential areas or villages. In addition to using classrooms, EC could set up tents to supplement the polling streams and these tents can be set up in other areas, other than just in school areas. The rationale behind this is to reduce too many voters gathering in one polling station, which usually reach up to 300 to 500 people. This also could reduce people’s movements.
c. Extended Polling Time
EC can extend the polling time, which is usually from 8.00am to 5.00pm, to 8.00am to 8.00pm to avoid the congestion of voters.
d. Postal Votes and Special Polling Centre
The EC may categorised Covid-19 patients or those who are still in quarantine as postal voters and request them to register themselves as postal voters so they can cast their votes via postal votes.
e. Interstate travel for voters need to be allowed
Voters for this by-election who live in other states and wish to return home to cast their votes should be allowed to travel interstate to fullfil their rights and duty as voters, or they must given the right to vote via postal vote.
f. Screening Station
Every polling centres must have a screening station to screen the voters before they could proceed to vote. Simple screening to measure body temperature need to be carried out. Those with a body temperature of above 37.5 degree Celsius must be directed to a special stream to cast their vote. EC also need to provide face masks and disposable gloves to voters before they could enter the polling stream to cast their votes. These gloves must be discarded on their way out.
Hand sanitisers must be provided in all the polling centres and polling streams for the EC staff, election workers and voters.
g. Disinfection of Polling Centres
In South Korea, the process to disinfect all the polling centres were carried out a couple of days before the polling day. This is to ensure that the polling centres are free from the virus before polling day.
Although we are still facing the Covid-19 pandemic, it must not be used as an excuse to stopped the democratic process in our country. Country such as South Korea has proven that the electoral process can be conducted rather successfully. What is important is the cooperation between all parties. We also have excellent and world class health taskforce that are prepared to assist and provide guidelines on the best measures to conduct the election.
Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0