Bersih urges PM to engage Parliament in filling EC vacancy

Bersih has urged Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to involve the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reforms in electing a Sabah member for the Election Commission (EC).

This, among others, will increase transparency in the appointment process and restore public trust in the EC, the electoral reform group’s steering committee said.

“While constitutionally appointed by Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the EC chairperson and members are chosen by the prime minister who nominates them.

“The vacancy for the Sabah Member occurred last November, while another vacancy occurred in December.

“Bersih points out that as guardian of the electoral process, the EC is one of the most important constitutional bodies

“However, for the most part after 1967, it had not demonstrated the expected independence, impartiality and integrity,” it said in a statement.

A major issue is the appointment of commissioners from amongst retired all-male senior servants until 2018 – who were all accustomed to taking orders from politicians, Bersih added.

“Only in 2018, the EC has had members with election- or law-related qualifications appointed from academia and civil society.”

Therefore, Anwar should show his commitment to enhancing the capability and credibility of the EC by involving the PSCC in the appointment of the Sabah member, it noted.

“Doing so will have three major benefits – i) increase transparency in the major appointment process; ii) greater legitimacy and public trust in EC; iii) meaningful role for Parliament to vet major appointments.

“This is akin to many developed democracies where their legislative assembly gets to vet, scrutinise and vote on major appointments.”

According to Bersih, it had conducted research on EC reforms and is ready to meet with the PM, PSCC and the electoral body on how the appointment can be made transparent, participative and accountable to build public trust towards EC and the election process.

(First published by Malaysiakini on 23 May 2023: