The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) refers to the emergency proclamation as advised to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) by the Prime Minister to postpone by-election in Batu Sapi. We believe that the emergency proclamation proposed by the Prime Minister may not be the best way to uphold our democracy as there are still many other proactive electoral measures that can be taken by the Election Commission (EC) and the enforcement bodies involved in elections.
BERSIH 2.0 is of the view that elections can still be conducted safely and efficiently even though we are still in the middle of a Covid-19 health crisis. This has been proven in several countries in the world such as Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, France, Australia and Germany which have held general elections as well as local government elections in their respective countries. Therefore, we are confident that elections can still be conducted with strict SOPs
BERSIH 2.0 Proposal
BERSIH 2.0 would like to suggest to the government in conducting the by-election in Batu Sapi and any other elections if there is a need to conduct one:
- Expand the category of postal votes and absentee ballots (1)
- Develop a new mechanism for conducting elections in unusual situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the ban on physical campaigning and replaced by campaigns in the mainstream media (2), extending campaign and polling period to and increasing the number of polling stations to facilitate easy access for voters (3)
- Tightening the SOPs during polling days such as body temperature check, the use of face shield for election officials, use of a brush to stain the permanent ink (4), and sanitization of the pollings station.
Declaring Emergencies Threatens Democracy
BERSIH 2.0 is of the view that allowing an emergency to postpone the election will create a precedent that could undermine our nation’s democracy because those in power like the Prime Minister may postpone election when the situation is unfavourable to them. Also, it is enshrined in the Federal Constitution that emergencies can only be declared on the grounds of public safety, economic life and public order.
As parliament is currently sitting, the government can bring a motion to amend or enact a new law to postpone the election with the support of at least 2/3 of the Dewan Rakyat members. Postponement of elections solely based on executive decisions should not be a democratic practice because the nation still has a legislative branch as one of the branches of the government that is needed to continue to function as a check and balance institution to the government.
Besides, we need to accept the fact that this Covid-19 pandemic will most likely continue to linger among us for a year or two. If an emergency becomes a method to postpone elections until the outbreak is over, does that mean that the people in Batu Sapi, or in any constituency where elections are to be held or the upcoming 15th general election will continue to have no representative in parliament to a period of one or two years too? How will the voice of the people in Batu Sapi be heard in parliament after this?
As for the reasons and suggestions mentioned above, BERSIH 2.0 believes that Malaysia needs to show the world that we can conduct elections in the best way possible without risking the voter’s well-being. Also, we believe that democracy should not be sacrificed but to be upheld strongly, especially in extraordinary circumstances such as the Covid-19 epidemic.
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee
(2) Petisyen Bersih Sarawak, http://chng.it/8rcCX4KMgY
(3) Bahagian 5: Kesimpulan dan Cadangan Laporan Pemerhatian Pilihan Raya Umum Negeri Sabah Kali ke-16,https://www.bersih.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Laporan-Pemerhatian-Pilihan-Raya-Umum-Negeri-Sabah-Kali-Ke-16.pdf