The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) refers to Pontian MP, YB Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan speech in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday (30 September 2021). In his speech, Ahmad Maslan proposed that the government take a punitive measure towards voters who didn’t turn out to vote by compounding them RM100-200 for being irresponsible to the country.
Although the proposal is likely to be made with the intention to encourage all eligible citizens to vote in the elections, BERSIH 2.0 is of the view that the method proposed by Ahmad Maslan is not viable and inconsistent with the principle of freedom of choice by the people. While the participation of the people is very fundamental in the electoral process and is a sacred right, it is also their right not to go down to vote in the elections.
Instead of punishing those who didn’t turn out to vote, it is more important for the government to focus on improving voting access to the people so that they can carry out their responsibilities as voters. Punitive measures without providing good infrastructures, assistance and opportunities to the people will only erode voters’ trust in the democratic and electoral process as they will vote because they are compelled to and not because of their responsibility. Therefore, the following reforms need to be implemented immediately to improve voters to voting:
- Fixing of election date
- Improving infrastructure for People With Disabilities (PWD) to vote
- Provide a voting period instead of a voting day
- Expansion of absentee voting rights to those who resides outside of their constituency.
- More polling stations and polling streams to reduce long queues. Mobile voting centres could also be utilised, especially for rural voters.
If we want higher voters turnout, punitive approach is very inappropriate. Instead, government should prepare to educate the people with voters education programmes such as importance of voting, voting process and democratic principles. Besides that, the enforcement of the law will be a huge issue to the authorities such as EC to penalized voters who didn’t turn out on the polling day.
The electoral process requires the participation of the people, and the people are more likely to vote if the electoral system is clean and fair, with level playing field provided to all competing parties.
The politicians should focus on restoring people’s trust in our political system and democracy by fixing systemic weaknesses and loopholes that allow midterm changes of governments through party-hopping. They must give people a reason to believe that it is still worthwhile coming out to vote in GE15.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0