Bersih proposes advance voting mechanism for Sarawak, Sabah voters in peninsula

KUCHING (July 9): The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has proposed establishing an advance voting mechanism for Sarawak and Sabah voters living in Peninsular Malaysia to save the high cost of air travel to return to their hometown to vote in the elections.

In the proposal, Bersih said a mega polling centre can be set up in each state in the peninsula for Sarawak and Sabah voters to cast their ballot, with similar centres set up in Sarawak and Sabah for people from the peninsula to exercise their rights.

“They can vote like advanced voters three days before the polling day and their votes should be counted on the polling day at the early polling centres, without requiring their votes to be posted to Sabah, Sarawak or Peninsular Malaysia,” said Bersih in a statement.

Bersih presented this proposal during a courtesy call on Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof in Parliament today.

With the arrangement, it said voters from Sabah and Sarawak do not have to return to their respective constituencies on polling day but to cast their votes in the state they are residing in.

Bersih said Fadillah had responded positively towards the proposal, saying the idea aligned with the consideration of parties in Sarawak as it would greatly facilitate voters.

“We welcome this positive response and urge the Election Commission (EC) to take seriously the demands of the people, civil society, and policymakers to immediately consider implementing advance voting before the Sabah and Sarawak state elections in 2025 and 2026,” said Bersih.

It said the proposal is expected to impact about a million Malaysian workers who have to travel between Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak to fulfil their voting responsibilities.

Other reforms proposed by Bersih during the engagement were on the issues of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation for MPs; the need for fair constituency delineation; reforms in the appointment of EC members; reforms to the Election Offences Act; appointment of key national institutions through a Parliamentary Committee; and the separation of the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor roles.

On the CDF distribution, Bersih said Fadillah told them the federal government was preparing a draft agreement to be presented to the Opposition for negotiations.

“We urge that this draft be finalised in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) 2.0 between the federal government and the Opposition in the short term, encompassing the implementation of the reform agenda, including the legal enactment of the CDF in the long term.”

Bersih said a law on CDF is necessary so that allocation of funds no longer depends on the discretion of the Prime Minister and the Executive.

Besides, Fadillah had informed them the Cabinet had agreed in principle to the separation of the powers of the Attorney-General and the Public Prosecutor, the re-enactment of the Parliamentary Services Act and amendments to the Election Offences Act.

“Bersih stated our stance that a clear timeline should be established so that these reforms can be implemented before the end of the 15th Parliament’s mandate.”

With that said, Bersih said they deeply appreciated Fadillah’s openness in meeting with civil society organisations and to listen to their views on the reform agenda.

“As the country is in a period of democratic transition, this open attitude is important to treat all stakeholders, including the Opposition and civil society, fairly and professionally to create a mature and advanced democracy,” it said.

(First published by Borneo Post on 9 July 2024: